With great Vengeance
“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers! And you will know my name is the Lord [pulls out his gun and aims it at Brett] when I lay my vengeance upon thee!” –Samuel L. Jackson, “Pulp Fiction”
I’ve been a bit behind the curve on getting up to speed with the changes that hit us in patch 4.0.1–being out of town for five days just after the patch dropped will do that, since it meant I missed The Anvil’s first 25-man raid last Thursday. But I was there for this week’s hoedown, and I was front and center in the main tank slot for Sindragosa and Arthas. It was, in several ways, a very edumacashunal (as we said back in the sticks where I grew up) evening.
Really, tanking last night didn’t feel very different from when I tanked Sindy and Arthas in 3.3. As a prot warrior, my priority system has changed very little; less Heroic Strike, one Rend at the start of a fight followed by a Thunder Clap to stick it on all mobs, and other than that, it’s the same old same old. Sword and Board proc’d Shield Slams come first, then Shield Slam, then Revenge, with Devastate as the filler, Heroic Strike to bleed rage, and at least one Thunder Clap every 12-15 seconds to keep Rend and the slow up. The biggest change to my years of muscle memory is that I now have to unlearn something that it took me two years to learn, which is Heroic Strike spam. I never used to hit it enough. Now I’m hitting it too much. I actually found myself badly rage-starved early in the Lich King fight on two or three occasions, when I got an avoidance streak combined with overaggressive HS use. Since Lin doesn’t have any points in Shield Specialization, he doesn’t get any rage back when he blocks. If I’m careful with HS, no problem. If I’m not, I can dig myself a momentary hole.
The biggest changes had to do with threat. My main education last night was seeing how threat works in the 4.0 world, and what I need to do as the tank–and what the DPS needs to do–to make everything go smoothly.
Our first Arthas pull was a disaster. One of our ret paladins ripped agro off me in less than ten seconds. Then a warlock pulled off her, then a feral druid pulled off him…two people dead almost instantly. And the DPS didn’t back off to let me get him back. I admit I let out a growl that scared the cats and probably made my poor wife think I was turning into a worgen IRL. I hate losing agro…I don’t generally get mad at the person who pulled unless they did some serious durp, I just generally chalk it up to me not being able to put out the threat.
After that, the raid leaders asked the DPS to wait before unloading, both to give me more solid threat time and to give the offtank more time to get more ghouls on him, for Necrotic Plague stacks. I didn’t have any more significant threat issues after that, but I did notice something. My snap agro at the beginning of a fight is definitely off from the world of 3.x. My usual opening combo of Heroic Throw/Shield Slam just wasn’t sticking mobs to me like it used to. Combine that with the huge DPS gains that certain classes (I’m looking at you, warlocks) have received in 4.0, and the old adage of “wait for the sunders” suddenly becomes more important than ever. Opening with a big nuke is going to get your face eaten.
And the reason for this, I believe, is the Vengeance mechanic. It’s a mastery that all tank class/spec combos–blood death nuggets, prot pallies, beardurids, and prot warriors–get in Cataclysm. Put simply, whenever you take damage, 5% of that damage number is added to your attack power for 10 seconds, up to a total maximum of 10% of your maximum health. So if Arthas smacks you upside the head for 20,000 damage, you get 1000 added to your attack power for 10 seconds.
When Vengeance first came out in the alpha, it looked pretty much like it does now. And I was convinced at the time that it would never go live in that form, because the numbers shaped up to be ridiculous. When tanking ICC, Linedan typically buffs out at over 72,000 health. So merely by getting hit by Arthas a few times, he could pick up as much as 7200 attack power? That would put him well over ten thousand AP. No way that Blizzard would ever let a tank have that much AP, right?
Shows you how much I know.
My first indication of the effect that Vengeance was having was when I started seeing some big yellow numbers float up on my screen during Arthas phase 1. I mean, big yellow numbers. Five-digit big. As a prot warrior, I rarely see five-digit yellow numbers on Lin, so out of curiosity, I opened up his character pane.
Attack power? Wobbling between 12,000 and 12,500. His base AP with buffs at pull time was roughly 4700. Throw in a few other buffs in combat, and the difference would be around 7,000…indicating that he’d hit the ceiling on Vengeance.
You can imagine what a prot warrior with twelve thousand AP was doing. 18k Revenge crits. 15k normal Shield Slam hits without Shield Block up. The night’s crowning glory was a Shield Blocked Shield Slam crit for precisely 41,564. On one Arthas attempt where we never got out of phase 1 due to the OT dying, Lin did well over 8000 dps. On the attempts where we got well into phase 2 before it all fell apart, he was still doing around 6000 dps. That’s double what he was doing in 3.3.
And here’s the kicker…he needed it. Because once the DPS got the clearance to put their foot to the floor, that six to eight thousand DPS was giving me the threat-per-second I needed to stay ahead. Without it, there’s no way. We had three warlocks each doing well north of 10,000 DPS consistently. That’s a lot of threat to have to overcome. At Lin’s normal 3000 DPS, I really don’t think he could have stayed ahead of them. But at 6000, 7000, 8000 DPS? He did. If they gave me 10 to 15 seconds of light DPS at the beginning–not even no DPS, just taking it easy–then dropped the hammer, I could stay ahead of them easily. If they went for it right from the start? No chance I could hang on.
So it seems obvious to me after this experience that Blizzard is now balancing tank threat around the Vengeance mechanic. On boss fights, they are expecting the tank to have a huge boost in attack power thanks to Vengeance, and be putting out damage that’s pretty insane compared to pre-4.0 levels. DPS threat will be tuned around that. If we take that as a given–and it’s not, it’s just my observation and opinion, but let’s just roll with it–it leads to a couple of interesting conclusions.
First, every tank class, even prot warriors, the previous “kings of snap agro,” now has a ramp-up time on their maximum threat. Beforehand, if we had enough rage, we could just unload a couple of high-threat moves and get a solid hold on the target, or a DK could just inappropriately Icy Touch something and it would be stuck on him like glue. No more. If our threat in relation to the DPS’ is balanced around us having six or seven or eight thousand more attack power than we do at the start of a fight, where they don’t have the same restrictions, it means we will always need a period of time to take a few hits to the head and get good and pissed off before we’re putting out enough pain to let the DPS go nuts. This is an important point for DPS to remember. We massively overgear heroics now and can just durp our way through them (that’s my next rant, coming soon), but that stuff won’t even work in 80+ normals from what I’ve seen in the beta.
Second, tank-swap fights just got a little more interesting. We saw this on Arthas last night when Haicu (my DK tank partner) and I would swap Arthas at Soul Reaver time. It’s similar to the problems tanks deal with on Festergut and his damage-increasing Gastric Bloat. The tank who has just taunted has not taken huge amounts of damage so he hasn’t had time to ramp up his Vengeance. The tank who has just been taunted from, on the other hand, is probably maxed out on his attack power and hitting like a dump truck with no brakes, full of angry burning bears. The “from” tank is going to have to watch himself for about 10 to 12 seconds after the swap and perhaps not go full-out, especially if he significantly outgears the other tank, or he may rip agro right back.
It’s very easy to dismiss Vengeance if all you do is normal questing or even random heroics. Current non-raid content simply doesn’t hit hard enough for long enough to give you the most benefit from the mastery. But when you get into a situation where you’re on a big boss, especially a raid boss, Vengeance comes into its own.
Now, does a 41k Shield Slam crit make up for not being at Blizzcon this weekend? No. But it does soothe the pain, just a little bit…