Tank Threat Part 1 - Scaling

Tanks serve a really simple function in principle, but a really wierd one in practice.

The principle is to control. Control damage output, where it is directed to, and positioning. The implementation varies from class to class. However there are two basic principles they all share:

1) Damage intake reduction. They should all take fairly similar amounts of damage, although the methods by which this is controlled may vary.
2) Threat output. All tanks should be able to output enough threat to keep the target focussed on them. This of course has to scale upwards to keep pace with DPS output from other classes.

I'm not going to examine the first one, I'll leave that to others. I'm going to focus on #2 - Threat Output.

The first big thing about Threat Output is that it needs to be fun. Now while fun is a subjective term, the universal truth of RPGs is that people like big numbers. Big numbers are awesome.

Now you could just say "Well then make tanks do 0 damage, and just generate threat numbers." That might be enough for some people, but the universal truth about MMOs is that people like competition. They need some way of comparing themselves to others. In WoW specifically this comes down to Damage, and Healing.

This means that just dealing Threat numbers isn't enough. Tanks need to do damage as well. However problems start arising when you need to be able to scale the Damage (and therefore threat) as content progresses along tiers. How do you pick a method to do this that allows your character to grow and progress, but doesn't hamper you or your raid's ability to clear content?

Blizzard has chosen to use something called "Vengeance". This increases a Tank's attack power by a 5% of incoming damage, up to a maximum of 10% of your Base Health + Buffed Stamina. Unfortunately there are inherent problems with this method.

The first and most obvious is that it doesn't scale backwards (or downwards I guess) as well as DPS does. By this I mean a DPS class will continue to do high amounts of DPS at lower tiers of content (be they raids or 5mans), but a Tank will not be able to do as much relative Threat. Of course you could always follow the "tank off your pants" method to solve this problem, but that shouldn't be necesarry. A tank should be able to generate sufficient amounts of threat to hold off equally geared DPS, regardless of the level of content they are doing.

The second is that any Tank that has mitigation that scales off of AP, cannot have their mitigation and threat independantly balanced while Vengeance exists. Increasing mitigation will decrease opening levels of threat, but increasing opening levels of threat to compensate for this makes the Tank completely overpowered at high levels of Vengeance.

I'm speaking of course, of Druids.

If we were to do away with Vengeance, we would have to find some other method of scaling Threat output with gear progression. So what does each Tank have in common with relatively similar values?

- Item Level
- Health
- Mastery
- Incoming Damage
- Outgoing Damage

Item Level is a pretty hokey concept, and I'd rather it remain simply a descriptor rather than an actual gameplay mechanic.

Mastery I like as a concept, but you could only have it increase the amount of threat generated, not damage. This seems to go against the concept of "fun".

We've already tried a combination of Health + Incoming damage, and look where that got us.

But what about Outgoing damage? It's much more constant than incoming damage, making it a much more reliable scalar for both future and past content. But how do you determine how it caps? Well, why not use the existing Vengeance formula?

That means 5% of your outgoing damage is added to your AP, with a maximum cap of 10% of your base health + your Stamina. Thia makes Vengeance:

1) Much more of an "active" scalar than a gear/encounter dependant one.
2) It becomes much more constant and reliable for threat generation. This makes it much easier to balance around.
3) Tank switches become less of an issue since both should be building up equal amounts.
4) Avoidance strings become a good thing and don't cause your threat to suffer.
5) It scales downward infinitely better than the current model.

The only problem is that it becomes more of a constant in PvP. The solution? Disable it when PvP flagged.

And no, I don't give a rat's ass if you want Tank-specs to be viable in PvP.

I'll be making a post later on about what could be done to balance or improve Druid threat specifically.


  1. Could you expand on why it doesn't "backscale?" It scales with HP which scales linearly with gear.

    If the coefficient is too low, then it doesn't scale forward. If the coefficient is too high, then the base amount is too low. It seems that isn't an inherent issue with vengence, just a poor choice of numbers.

    I understand the issue with vengence not being brung up fast enough, but this other argument doesn't make sense

  2. Vengance is entirely dependant on damage intake. Much like rage generation was back in Vanilla.

    If you aren't taking enough damage (especially when you're geared in Heroic T1 gear) your Vengeance isn't going to stack high enough to allow you to generate enough threat to hold off of equally geared DPS.

    And it's only going to get worse as we progress through the tiers.

    If we just nuked Vengeance entirely and didn't replace it with anything, the base damage values of Tank abilities would have to be changed with every tier in order to remain balanced. That makes it less dynamic, less fun.

    The goal should be to have something that will dynamically scale with DPS classes. Not to have some number jacked up each tier of content.

  3. Very interesting post. Your suggestion would indeed solve a number of issues with the current model. The fact that avoidance is currently a bit of a double-edged sword, both in terms of threat and mitigation, is something that has been bugging me for a while. It would also allow us a greater degree of control over our vengeance, since if we wanted to we could gear for hit/exp to keep our ap level more stable.

    Your suggestion does raise a few questions however. What sort of impact do you think it would have on the relative stat values, not only for ferals but also for other tanks? Expertise rating would now have an even greater impact on threat generation, since a parry is not only an immidiate loss of threat but also has a more lasting impact through the loss of potential vengeance. Given that it's already a pretty good mitigation stat for ferals it would definitly end up above crit in priority. Would other tanks welcome the increased importance of expertise as easily as we would?

    What sort of impact would this have on tanks in the lowers ends of the tank spectrum? The current model allows a tank who has just started raiding, likely with less expertise and a suboptimal threat rotation, to still generate vengeance rather quickly and thereby maintain aggro without too much trouble. It's more forgiving to newer player and by the DPS have geared up and started to challenge the tank he will have improved as well, in both gear and skill, allowing him to take them on (hopefully, or else he won't be allowed to tank much longer anyway). While I would personally welcome a shift where individual skill would have a greater impact on performance I am not sure if Blizzard would agree.

    The third issue would be the damage done by tanks who aren't tanking. This is probably the most important balance issue, and also the one that probaly affects us bears the least. While it's great to be able to maintain your vengeance in fights where the tanks switch back and forth, once one tank has stopped tanking (be it due to his add dying, a prolonged drop in tank damage (say Nefarian phase 2), or some other reason) the ap from vengeance will allow the tank to do damage that will likely exceed Blizzard's models, especially if that tank whips out a 2h.
    The impact of this could be reduced by limiting the gathering of vengeance to when the tank is in bear form, def stance, etc, since the threat modifier would then eventually cap him out to avoid pulling aggro, but even with such a limitation the overall offtank damage would still increase.

    It's possible that I'm just putting too much thought into minor issues that may not even be noticable, especially since tanks are at the bottom of the damage meter anyway, even with full vengeance. Anyway, your input would be much appreciated.


  4. I don't think it would change anything in terms of relative stat values. If anything it would encourage people to just hold for a couple of seconds before engaging. That's something that DPS should re-learn to do anyway. It might end up being a bit of a mean way to do it, but all of this attacking while the tank barely even has hold of the mob/boss needs to stop. As someone that tanked in Vanilla and DPSed in BC, people should be rewarded for paying attention to their threat by not dying.

    If that means making single-tank bosses taunt immune, so be it.

    A problem may arise when tanks on the lower end of the gear spectrum group with DPS on the higher end. Since their damage output isn't as high as other highly geared tanks, their Vengeance won't rise as quickly.

    But that's not really anything new. Lower geared tanks have always generated less threat than higher geared ones. The question then becomes should we balance for a situation where an undergeared tank is grouping with overgeared DPS? I'm not really sure we should bother.

    In 5mans, nothing is particularly dangerous enough to warrant anyone to actually care.

    If you're bringing a 333 lvl tank to a 359 level raid, you have bigger problems than worrying about threat balance.

    The increase in tank damage from tanks in multiple-tank encounters is the easy one. Increase target's health. Done.

  5. I have not done any math but i would think that generally the change would not change stat weights all that much for us. Given the way it would scale you would start gaining vengeance faster the more vengeance you have, so after maybe 10 sec it would probably outscale any misses you might have.

    It would have the advantage of causing our vengeance to basically always cap on bosses meaning that a weak hitting boss is not more of an issue than one who hits harder.

    For new tanks I doubt that you would notice a lot of difference on it being too low and affecting damage reduction. I do think that this would make leveling as a tank spec more appealing however as it would allow you to get vengeance off of mobs as long as you kept pulling quickly as opposed to right now where you might get 1000AP with 100k health if the mob is hitting you hard enough, even then its probably more likely around 400AP.

    And for vengeance increasing tank damage on portions of the fight where they are not having to actually tank anything...why not just make using a one hander a prerequisite for warriors and Pally's and bear form and blood presence for druids and DK's. They already have talents that increase crit or w/e when using a 2 hander, so why cant they make vengeance 1H dependant? And so what if your offtank can keep a stack of vengeance going, that is only going to help on tank switches.

    I don't think eliminating vengeance when someone is flagged for PvP is a good idea. If they want to take it away in Arena's and BG's like they do for the increase mounts speed and increased speed when you are dead, im fine with that, but if someone decides to attack me while im doing daily quests I want my vengeance to crush them with.

  6. Still not clear on the blackscaling thing...

    you said:
    "If you aren't taking enough damage (especially when you're geared in Heroic T1 gear) your Vengeance isn't going to stack high enough to allow you to generate enough threat to hold off of equally geared DPS."

    Wouldn't a lower geared tank take more damage? not less?

    It seems to me the argument against vengeance is that it doesn't scale with higher mitigation (ie. going forward), not backward...

  7. What he is saying is that because the enemies in a heroic do less damage and the vengeance wont stack as high for holding threat. I believe that he means that with your gear not changing you will be fine in raids cause damage is high enough but the heroic damage is considerably less and so you don't scale well back into heroics and this will only get worse as you get better gear.

  8. Jey pretty much got it. Ferals are on the ass end of backwards Vengeance scaling atm because our Avoidance is so high.

  9. Your suggestion would also make calling it "Vengeance" more appropriate! =)

  10. I know posting on the forums is not going to get you much of anywhere, but from this reader's point of view, your concerns are valid. I should not be penalized for popping a dodge trinket CD and then expect my vengeance to shrink. Or worry about the first 5 seconds of tanking Cho'gall during the add spawn and hoping to get enough threat that i keep him on me. Maybe that's an expertise issue on my part, but seeing orange on blizzard's built in threat meter is much scarier than seeing red (at least for a bear). I would like to be able to shapeshift to bearform and start building up my vengeance before i even have to taunt. that would make life less complicated.