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?

Pants.

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?

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Massive Math, Missing Community and Jumping In Whirlpools – Friday WoW roundup

The MMO community’s in a calm before the storm right now, with numerous titles – The Secret World, Diablo III, Guild Wars, and of course Mists of Pandaria – all looming ponderously over us, threatening to drop at any minute.

As a result, I think, it’s been a quiet week after a busy start. Still, there are a few cool pieces out there today, from a scary, scary demonstration of what top-end theorycrafting actually looks like, to a tip for Something Neat To Do In WoW you might not be aware of…

  • Theck has released a series of uber-mathsy posts on Paladin block values in MoP – and it’s interesting reading just to get an idea of the scale and complexity of the work that goes into theory guides“With 10,000 minutes of combat, the Monte Carlo manages to match G and S to the analytical model to three decimal places. R_{\rm HPG} differs slightly in the fourth decimal place, but T_{\rm SotR} is a little bit higher than the 6.4 predicted by the analytical model. “
  • Cyndre at Kill Ten Rats looks back at the roots of server community in Ultima Online, and how things have changed so much between then and WoW“Now as it stood, my friends were present in both Guilds, and many of us played both sides of the fence, but we stayed true to the roleplaying of the fact and there was never collusion. It felt real, it felt geniune and every choice, every action, even your name, mattered.”
  • And finally Cymre of Bubbles of Mischief points out a neat little feature in Darkshore – the whirlpool that teleports you away“Jumping into it starts a short cutscene of your toon being sucked into the whirlpool. You end up in the Bashal’Aran Collapse where a lone Cenarian Circle druid sits by the waters edge.”

Have a great weekend, and if you’ve enjoyed these posts, please do share them!

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Why Ghostcrawler’s MoP Block Math is Dead, Dead Wrong

Ghostcrawler and his crew are back in World of Warcraft, and they’re making changes again. Not content with the epic changes to the talent system , GC has also announced that there will be huge changes to the basic stats in the game, right down to the level of changing how combat works altogether. (Blessing of Kings has an excellent summary and general critique of the announced changes ).

In amongst the changes is a supposed “fix” for the problems that Block has caused this expansion – block capping and more. From now on, combat will resolve in a two-roll system – one roll for avoidance, and one for block. It sounds simple, it sounds complete, GC’s clearly very pleased with it –

And it’s going to cause any number of problems.

Today Theck, known throughout theorycrafting land as “The Bringer of Numbers and Pounding Headaches”, sits down at his Scary Maths Desk at Sacred Duty to explain just why Ghostcrawler’s solution is, in fact, a bad idea, and one that will have some seriously non-obvious implications for tanking

“In the (true) one-roll system, block and avoidance are completely independent – gaining 10% avoidance doesn’t change how much block you have (provided you aren’t capped). But the two-roll system inherently couples avoidance and block (or more accurately, couples block to avoidance – it’s a one-way street, in that avoidance affects block but block doesn’t affect avoidance). The two-roll system introduces an interdependence that leads to some really unintuitive behavior. When you increase your avoidance, you are effectively reducing your mastery-to-block conversion factor. If it’s 1 mastery = 1.4% block at 30% avoidance, it drops to 1 mastery = 1.2% block at 40% avoidance.

So the statement that that “block gives a consistent value, independent of avoidance” is clearly false using this metric, because increasing your avoidance reduces the effectiveness of every point of mastery you have.”

This post is long, it’s detailed, and I advise you to put your thinking cap on and caffinate up before reading, because it’s got maths in it. And we’re not talking the usual levels of simple theorycraft here – Theck’s bringing the calculus, and he’s bringing it hard.

But having said all that, even if scary formulae bring you out in a rash, Theck explains his central points clearly and well. It would appear that Ghostcrawler may be making the classic system designer mistake of underestimating the complexity of moving from a single to a multi-dice-roll system. He’s also failing to learn from his competition, as SWTOR is already struggling with a similar system and its consequences for non-obvious stat priorities.

I have to say, even before Theck brought the brains to the discussion, the idea of a multi-roll combat system was making me twitch a bit. But chances are, what GC says is going to become law, whether we like it or not. So, if you’re going to be playing a tank in Mists of Pandaria, this post is probably a must-read, to start understanding the additional complexity that is coming down the mountain with the Pandas.

Did you find this post interesting? If so, please consider sharing it!

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TLDR: Rogues In August 2010

We all know that forums like Elitist Jerks are where the top players go to share tips and work out tricks for insane DPS or amazing healing. But who has the time to read through all those massive threads?

MMO Melting Pot is on the case. We hack through the math so you don’t have to.

So, Rogues…

I guess the summary for our August TL:DR on Rogues is “nothing’s really changed”. If you’re up to date with your Roguing as of 3.3 (here’s the Elitist Jerks guide, which should tell you just about everything you need to know, and here’s the quick FAQ if you’re short on time or can’t be arsed, both from the truly awesome Aldriana), you’re up to date with playing a rogue.

Although there are some neat tricks you can pull with Killing Spree…

  • The State Of Play. Mutilate and Combat are about even damage-wise (in PvE). Rupture’s pretty much gone away as a used skill (although see below). Subtlety still sucks badly. You’ll still get shouted at on EJ if you try to use Black Magic on either of your weapons. There’s probably lots of interesting stuff happening in rogue PvP, but I’m afraid you’re on your own with the Arena Junkies Rogue PvP forums (unless anyone can write a guest post?) – I don’t speak Gladiator. Apparently they use a Subtlety spec a lot. Who knew?
  • Rupture News: If you’re a Mutilate rogue, don’t use Rupture. Just don’t. [pullquote] For mutilate, envenom just doesn’t do damage in one hit, it also increases your poison proc chance a lot and refreshes Slice and Dice. Not to mention, Rupture scales with only one thing, Attack Power. Arp, Haste, Crit, Hit -> all of it worthless for rupture.[/pullquote] If you’re a Combat rogue, the question of whether a High-Rupture (90% uptime on Rupture, Rupture prioritised over Eviscerate) or an Evis-only cycle still rages, but appears to be coming to a steady conclusion. There appears to be some agreement that on very, very static fights (Saurfang and Festergut) Rupture is ahead on DPS, but not by a hell of a lot, and it’s a complete pig of a playstyle to maintain against all other bosses. Try it on Hard Mode Putricide.
  • Sindragosa and Killing Spree. There’s some question in the EJ forums as to when the best time to Killing Spree on Sindy is to not get Tail Swiped. Agreement seems to be that you either want to KS when she’s breathing (because she won’t interrupt that to swipe, I think) or when she’s just landed.
  • Hard Mode Lich King and Killing Spree. In Hard Mode LK, it’s possible to use Killing Spree under rather specific circumstances to recover from a Valkyr dropping you off the edge of the platform. Essentially, you either need a) another valkyr near the same edge, or b) the valkyr that dropped you to go below 50% health, at which point it’ll fly back in and up. If you’ve got an Engineering cloak, that really, really helps, apparently. However, I’m afraid that HM Lich King is a bit beyond my pay grade, so I can’t confirm if this works!

That’s about it for this week – Rogues are, well, what Rogues are.

Any tips or tricks for Rogues I missed? Anyone have the foggiest clue what the state of the art is in PvP Rogueing? And any requests for the next TLDR class choice?

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Theorycrafting TLDR: Protection Paladins (August 2010)

_We all know that forums like Elitist Jerks are where the top players go to share tips and work out tricks for insane DPS or amazing healing. But who has the time to read through all those massive threads?

MMO Melting Pot is on the case. We hack through the math so you don’t have to.

This week, we’ll be looking at the latest thinking in Protection Paladin theorycrafting and general tips, courtesy of top pallie theorycrafting site Maintankadin.

So what’s been going on in discussions in the last few weeks?

  • Did you know that Righteous Defence automatically targets the target of a mob? Yeah, me neither. Apparently, macros are unnecessary, because if you cast Righteous Defence on a mob, it automatically targets the mob’s target. Nifty.
  • [pullquote]The general conclusion is that slow DPS weapons are better for threat by roughly a full tier over normal-speed tanking weapons. What you give up is some avoidance and stamina. If you’re not dying, by all means go slow DPS weapon.[/pullquote]There’s some interesting discussion of the utility of slow weapons which would traditionally be considered DPS weapons, rather than fast tank weapons, to overcome the problem of tank threat scaling against DPS. Here’s some very useful tips on enchanting a tank weapon (aimed at slow DPS but useful to anyone). The original thread on the subject ends up with the conclusion that if you’re doing Heroics or non-progression raids (basically anything but Hard Modes), you’ll probably want to equip a slow DPS weapon in favour of an avoidance weapon (partially due to the 30% ICC buff). The “failsafe gearing guide argues strongly in favour of equipping Strength librams and a 2.6 speed DPS weapon to counteract problems with threat, particularly in ICC.
  • Not terribly recent, but the legendary Theck has been doing some hardcore number crunching on TPS (threat per second) on trash, and his conclusion is: by far your most important stats on trash are Expertise and Hit. Go for the soft expertise cap (24) and the melee hit cap (which is only 197 or 6% on trash). Useful to know if you’re tanking a lot of Heroics in particular!
  • Extreme hardcore theorycrafting (seriously, it uses “Time-homogeneous Markov chains with finite state space.”) has proved that in most circumstances Blade Ward sucks for pallie tanks compared to Mongoose. Get Mongoose unless you’re running a very high ratio of dodge to parry (before you take Chill of the Throne into account), and even then, Blade Ward will only pull ahead under rather specific circumstances and only on avoidance.
  • I’ve been seeing pallie tanks around doing insane DPS in heroics recently – turns out that it’s a result of an ongoing discussion about a “maximum DPS” tanking spec. If you want to do upward of 6k DPS in Heroics and make the DPS very very jealous, it looks like this 0/51/20 spec is the way forward. So trying that out. And that’s all for this week! We’ve learned a new way to use a core ability, swapped our weapons out for better threat, and spammed the DPS meters – a job well done.

    This was the first of these columns – how useful did you find it? And what class should we cover next week?

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