Dev Watercooler -- Threat Level Midnight
Blizzard is going to make a couple of changes to threat, among other things:

  • Hotfix: The threat generated by classes in their tanking mode has been increased from three times damage done to five times damage done.
  • In an upcoming patch: Vengeance no longer ramps up slowly at the beginning of a fight. Instead, the first melee attack taken generates Vengeance equal to one third of the damage dealt by that attack. As Vengeance updates during the fight, it is always set to at least a third of the damage taken in the last two seconds. It still climbs from that point at the previous rate, still decays at the previous rate, and still cannot exceed the current maximum.

Read the entire blog post for more details and upcoming changes.
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Threat revisited

One of the fun things about working on an MMO is that the game design will evolve over time, and you have the opportunity to make changes to reflect those design shifts. (And yes, we know that it can sometimes evolve too quickly).

Back in December, I wrote a blog post about our vision for how threat should work. Since then, the game and the community have continued to progress and the designers have found ourselves changing our minds about the role of threat. Enough that we’re planning to apply a hotfix this week to change how threat works.

Why have threat?

Threat’s role, just so we’re all on the same page, is to make fights more interesting. Tanks spend a lot of effort staying alive, but they aren’t under immediate threat of death one-hundred percent of the time. Plus, their staying alive is also dependent on their healers and other external cooldowns. We have always been concerned that if threat was not a big part of tanking gameplay that tanks might get bored just waiting around until it was time to use a cooldown. Likewise, if DPS and healers had no risk of being attacked themselves then the sense of danger facing a powerful creature could erode. Furthermore, every character’s toolbox includes some cool survival and utility abilities and the game feels more shallow if those are exclusively used for PvP. It’s fun for a mage to Frost Nova an attacker and Blink away. It’s fun for a hunter to Feign Death. Yes your life would be a lot easier without threat mechanics, but our goal isn’t to make fights as easy as possible. Our job is to make fights fun. Having too much to manage might not be fun, but it’s also not fun to be bored.

That’s been our traditional argument for threat needing to matter. Here is the case against it:

Why not have threat?


  • As I said in the previous blog post, it’s not fun to feel throttled. It’s not fun for the Feral druid to stop using special attacks in order to avoid pulling aggro. It’s fun to use Feint at the right time to avoid dying, but it’s not fun for Feint to be part of your rotational cooldown. We want you to spend most of your effort trying to overcome the dragon or elemental, not struggling against your own tank.

Tanks are busy

  • I’d also argue that our encounters aren’t really boring these days. We ask tanks to do a lot -- everything from picking up adds, to moving bosses around, to staying out of fires, to providing interrupts, in addition to the classic tank roles of staying alive and generating threat.

Threat stats aren’t fun

  • We put threat stats (hit and expertise for the most part) on tanking gear, because without those, tanks would be limited to choosing from among mastery, dodge, and parry. (In the current state of itemization, you are rarely choosing more Strength, Agility, Stamina, or armor.) Druids can’t parry, and even for the plate users, there is a tight relationship between dodge and parry, and even mastery for the warrior and paladin. That gets us dangerously close to the old model of stacking a single uber stat (like Stamina or defense), which makes gearing choices too simplistic for tanks. Did something drop? Okay, put it on. (Contrast this to a DPS caster who might want more or less hit or might favor haste over crit, etc.)

    We want threat stats to be interesting, but the reality is that they aren’t. Any decent tank will usually choose survivability stats over threat stats. Back in the day when taunts and interrupts could miss, you could argue hit was marginally useful. But in a world where hit is really just for generating threat, it isn’t very exciting and tanks get understandably emo when we put too much on their gear. (DKs are somewhat of an exception in a good way -- more on that in a sec.) We do see some players try and get excited about threat stats or even proud of their ability to generate threat, but overall we feel like threat stats are a trap, and it’s usually the case that improving your survivability will have a better net impact on your group’s progression.

We don’t need a more complex UI

  • We have threatened for years (see what I did there?) to build in some kind of threat tracking tool into WoW. But is that really good for the game? Do we really need yet another UI element for players to look at instead of looking at the actual game world? We know many raiders in particular use third-party threat mods today, but that has really been borne out of necessity rather than a sense that watching threat is super compelling gameplay. (When we say “super compelling gameplay” you can mentally replace that with “fun.”)

Dungeon Finder

  • I know this bullet will be a point made by players critical of this change, but I would feel remiss in not bringing it up. We want it to be a positive experience when Dungeon Finder matches experienced players with newer players. The skill and gear of the former can help make up for that of the latter. Who better to teach you boss mechanics than players who have done the fights before? Even better, the gear of a veteran tank can make up for the less powerful gear of a beginning healer (which doesn’t necessarily mean a noob -- it could be the alt of a very experienced raider).

    However, this system fails and often spectacularly so when it’s the tank who is the undergeared player. Even if a competent healer can keep the undergeared tank alive, the fully raid-geared DPS spec is going to constantly be on the verge of pulling threat. That’s not an issue of skill. It’s just numbers. It’s also not a problem that is easy to overcome for either the overgeared DPS or the undergeared tank -- it’s just not a lot of fun for anyone.

So now what?

Given all of that, and watching how tanking has unfolded in Cataclysm, we’ve gotten over the concept that threat needs to be a major part of PvE gameplay. We have therefore decided to buff tank threat generation in a hotfix this week to where it’s generally not a major consideration. We expect the community to gradually stop using threat-tracking mods as players realize they don’t need them.

It’s an important distinction that the concept of “aggro” will still exist. If a DPS spec attacks an add the second it shows up, then the creature is going to come at her. However, if a tank gets an attack or two on a target, then the target should stick to the tank. Worrying about who has the creature’s attention should generally only be a concern at the start of a fight or when additional creatures join the battle. Worrying about a warrior or DK (the classes with nearly non-existent threat dumps) creeping up on tank threat after several minutes will almost certainly not be an issue any longer. (And if it is, we’ll have to make further adjustments.)

We like abilities like Misdirect. It’s fun as a hunter to help the tank control targets. We are less enamored of Cower, which is just an ability used often to suppress threat. We like that the mage might have to use Ice Block, Frost Nova, or even Mirror Image to avoid danger. We don’t like the mage having to worry about constantly creeping up on the tank’s threat levels. The notion of aggro (who the target is attacking) is a keeper. The notion of threat races (who is about to pull aggro) is going to be downplayed from here on out.

Upcoming changes

Here are the specific changes you’re likely to see:

  • Hotfix: The threat generated by classes in their tanking mode has been increased from three times damage done to five times damage done.
  • In an upcoming patch: Vengeance no longer ramps up slowly at the beginning of a fight. Instead, the first melee attack taken generates Vengeance equal to one third of the damage dealt by that attack. As Vengeance updates during the fight, it is always set to at least a third of the damage taken in the last two seconds. It still climbs from that point at the previous rate, still decays at the previous rate, and still cannot exceed the current maximum.

Long-term changes

You could argue that once threat is very easy to manage that a warrior tank could just go AFK. In reality, given today’s boss encounters, an AFK warrior would end up standing in the wrong place, missing a tank transition, or otherwise do something or fail to do something that wipes the party or raid.

That said, we ultimately don’t want tanking to be just standing there soaking boss hits and we would like to have more stats on gear that tanks care about. To solve those challenges, we want to shift more tank mitigation to require active management. We’ll still give all the tanks emergency cooldowns like Shield Wall and Survival Instincts. However, we want to move the shorter cooldowns like Shield Block, Holy Shield and Savage Defense so that they work more like Death Strike. Blood DKs have a lot of control over the survivability they get from Death Strike, but as part of that gameplay, they have to actually hit their target. The other three tanks will get similar active defense mechanics. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to use the DK model of self-healing, but they can use the DK model of managing resources to maximize survivability.

Death Strike consumes resources to help the tank survive. We toyed at one point with the paladin Holy Shield being a Holy Power consumer and we think we could do so again. Heck we could make Word of Glory the thing you’re supposed to do with Holy Power, so long as we balanced all tanks around that idea and didn’t feel it infringed too much on the DK mechanic. We could make Shield Block cost rage, and change Protection warrior rage income such that they had to manage rage, the way Fury and Arms warriors now must do. If tanks generated more rage from doing damage and less from taking damage, then hitting a target becomes very important, but for mitigation, not threat management reasons. This is a bigger change than it seems though. We don’t want a model where the Prot warrior ignores Shield Slam, Devastate and Revenge (since threat isn’t a big deal) in order to bank all rage for Shield Block (because survival is). Imagine a rage model where you always had enough rage for your core rotational abilities (they could be cheap or even generate rage), so that you could funnel most of your rage into Shield Block when survival mattered and Heroic Strike when it did not. Redesigning Savage Defense to make it a rage sink is an even bigger change, but we think there is an opportunity there to make the rotation more interesting for druids (and all tanks really). Their rotation would help them achieve the goal that usually matters the most to tanks: living.

This is the kind of design for which we’re really going to need a lot of feedback once it hits. We can implement and verify empirically how much threat a tank generates, but it’s hard for us to replicate the experience of all of the various raiding groups and dungeon parties out there. We invite you to try out the immediate and eventually the long-term changes when they are available and let us know how they feel. Do you miss the threat game? Are you bored when tanking now? Conversely, with the changes, is tanking more fun for you? Does this new implementation of Vengeance feel better? Some systems design calls we can make just by processing numbers, and some are more squishy and involve a lot gut checks and wishy-washy “but how does it FEEL?” language. Messing with this kind of thing is definitely somewhere in the middle.

Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft, and lead eater at the dinner table.
This article was originally published in forum thread: Dev Watercooler -- Threat Level Midnight started by Boubouille View original post
Comments 301 Comments
  1. Cows For Life's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Calamari View Post
    You are right, a well designed raid encounter will have means to prevent the full use of such situationally powerful support tools. However even in raids Hand of Protection is very powerful (think Rotfaces slimes, when they catch up with someone who can't dodge the poison pool).

    Hand of Sacrifice is fantastic, 30% damage reduction on a friendly tank is -huge- when, effectively another cooldown to their arsenal at your disposal. The current Intervene prevents 1 attack (usually not even that, it can be very unreliable), and unlike hand spells, requires you to charge all the way over the friendly player's melee range and through whatever might lie inbetween, most raid tanks can't afford leaving their positions all too often.

    Lay on Hands? I've saved so many wipes with this in raids and 5 mans. Can top off a near death tank within 1 gcd, at a 7min cd that's simply magnificent.

    Prot paladin self healing is but an icing on the cake and not necessary to use at all, it's simply a bonus in addition to all the support tools available to you.

    The true trump of being a prot paladin is having the tools to assist and counter almost any danger on individual party members without interrupting the tanking process at all. A protection warrior has none of that, we have our dps rotation, there is no reactive self healing outside of Frenzied Regeneration. We have 1 support cooldown, which is Rallying Cry, and that pales in comparison to Divine Guardian. We have 0 support tools to reduce a friendly targets damage taken, or heal the group, we are the only tanking class with such drastic limitations to group support.
    You think it's bad for warriors? It could be worse, you could be a druid. At least now they've nerfed Innervate into oblivion so it's one less tool they need access to.
  1. Calamari's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Cows For Life View Post
    You think it's bad for warriors? It could be worse, you could be a druid. At least now they've nerfed Innervate into oblivion so it's one less tool they need access to.
    Innervate got nerfed pretty hard true, however I'll still take your overnerfed Innervate any day over having no Innervate or battle ress at all.
  1. Seezer's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Damax View Post
    there's more baddies than good players... true fact
    False. There are more "average" players than baddies or good players. Average players can hold their own without welling up in tears because they can't get any phat lewtz. They just aren't exceptional. The baddies are the mages that gem for expertise, and the healers using the Agility staff. Baddies don't care either way. That's why they're baddies.
  1. Findus707's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Mang View Post
    Won't this have pvp implications also
    It will! taunt now works on players! you can no longer target anyone else within the effect of taunt is on you!
  1. Nobleshield's Avatar
    Speaking as a decently geared tank, I think this will be a good thing. I'm sick and tired of people who can't wait a few seconds for me to at least establish threat on a pull before they start blowing cooldowns; my guild is even guilty of this on boss fights, and they whine how I "can't hold threat" - of course I can't hold threat, moron, when you aren't letting me get threat to begin with. Threat shouldn't be a concern - I don't want to have to be watching my threat meters all the time as the tank to see who is going crazy and might pull, I want to focus on the boss either keeping debuffs up, moving out of bad stuff, watching for adds, or managing my own survivability. This change sounds like tanks can finally focus on the important stuff and not herp-derp mechanics like if that Arcane Mage or Kitty or Frost DK is going to blow their load immediately and get one-shotted, probably causing a wipe.
  1. Redblade's Avatar
    Blizzard, bringing the game down to the lowest common denominator once again, wonder what's next.
  1. akts's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by masterprtzl View Post
    This, a thousand times this. My feral pulls threat from ANY tank at the start of the fight. If magically the tank gets misdirects and salvs spammed on me, I can pull like 30k+ at the start, but normally I have to spam cower
    Hah, weaklings! At least you got that threat dump! It was sooo frustrating to have one of the (if not the) highest bursts in game, no threat dump AND no passive threat reduction. Fury warriors and frost DK would be very glad.
  1. epec's Avatar
    Haha, another step in the wrong direction. "Ummmm we lost a bunch of subs so lets make the game even easier, um derp! That will fix everything!" /headshake
  1. pVVn3c|'s Avatar
    The end is neigh....
  1. lilbuddhaman's Avatar
    Here's a novel idea:
    Balance everything, such that it actually scales/works with increases/changes in gear, bosses, tiers, mechanics. Just a thought. It's what you claim to do every expansion, and like clockwork, at around the halfway point of the expansion we get the same line "We didn't expect stats to scale like this" "we didn't expect this mechanic to effect threat this much" "we didn't realize that itemization would put us here".
    It's like you guys don't even have a balance team anymore and simply do random kneejerk buffs/nerfs. At least in the old days they would be truly thought over, instead of just thrown down twice a month like a blind man throwing darts...
  1. Neurodrill's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucread View Post
    I actually quit WoW because of the Blood DK model, so I'm glad I'm not still playing when I read this. Maybe once the Druid/Paladin/Warriors see how frustrating it is to be utterly powerless to mitigate (all runes and cooldowns used..common thing for DKs) they will start QQing and DKs will get fixed.
    Quit WoW because of one class change, and yet forum posting nearly 8 months after the change? I'm in serious doubt of the sincerity of the "quitting" statement.
  1. zrankfappa's Avatar
    i dunno what everyone is crying about ... under geared tanks maintaining threat when grouped with better geared dps is gonna instantly make the random dungeon queues sub 5 minutes for dps. a truly brilliant move by blizzard. now i think they ought to make resilience reduce your average gear level.
  1. Redblade's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by zrankfappa View Post
    i dunno what everyone is crying about ... under geared tanks maintaining threat when grouped with better geared dps is gonna instantly make the random dungeon queues sub 5 minutes for dps. a truly brilliant move by blizzard. now i think they ought to make resilience reduce your average gear level.
    I'm sorry but balancing the game after LFG is one of the worst things they could do, and this won't change the DPS queues in any significant way.
  1. Sammonoske's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by 4KhazModan View Post
    You're acting like it was hard to begin with. While threat has never really been an issue before, I'm afraid now it will just be faceroll. Maybe Blizzard doesn't get why people like tanking to begin with. It's more of a challenge than dps. Making it even easier is not the right way to recruit more tanks.
    Actually there was an issue with starting threat at the beginning of boss fights. Tanks would get an unlucky parry/dodge on primary abilities and a dps would pull aggro. Even if said abilities landed, dps would often ride the tanks on threat for a good while until vengeance kicked in.

    This was (or still is) an issue with warriors at least. Heroic Throw can miss, shouts give no threat, Recklessness on pulls is a double edged sword, can't always charge. In a 10m environment, raid might not have a rogue or a hunter.

    Is this a fix I personally was looking for? No. I would have liked Blizz to make hit and exp more appealing. Yet they remain as trash stats.
  1. Topdog's Avatar
    My personal opinion is I'll need a pillow for raids now so i can power nap. Threat gen has not been a problem for most of our guild tanks, due to the fact they are not far off the Hit and Exp caps.

    Imo, Blizz should make Hit/Exp more valuable, because a lot of Tanks don't have any. I'm not saying those with no hit/exp are bad tanks, but tanks with no Hit/Exp choose this path because Mastery is a much better stat to have, however no Hit/Exp means you miss alot of attacks which reduces your threat generation. My personal choice is to get close to the Hit/Exp cap.

    Our Arcane mage blows all CD's and timewarp at start of Majordomo Staghelm, yet I still keep threat becasue I choose to have Hit/Exp close to cap.

    Maybe if blizzard looked into making Hit/Exp more a requirement then they wouldn't need to make Threat buffs. Has it stands, I may aswell remove omen add-on once this goes live, there will be no need for it
  1. Xaraxia's Avatar
    Well, I'll be tanking now. Multiple-target threat management was my only real complaint on my bear. Everything else (positioning, cooldowns, etc) is just a matter of learning the fights. Holding AoE threat against raid-geared toons quite literally left me in tears one night (yes, I'm a girl - deal with it).My husband is a DK. As a tank he's fine, he loves the complexity. He generally doesn't tank PUGs because he got sick of the community. As DPS the other night he spent 40 seconds doing nothing but white damage so as to not pull threat in a BoT/BWD run (he was bringing his main to an alt run to make up numbers). It was painfully boring for him.
  1. Sephiracle's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Fengore View Post
    People who are saying this is an unnecessary or unimportant change have never played a Fury Warrior or Frost DK with any credible effect in this expansion.Those of us who have know this is a huge change.
    Two classes having threat problems doesn't mean you should buff tanks threat across the board by 3-5x. It means those two classes are either dealing too much damage, or need passive threat bonuses.
  1. Yalingo's Avatar
    Us boomkins are happy
  1. lvlark's Avatar
    [druid tank speaking here] So us tanks get about two thirds more threat? I've been tanking Zuls recently with dps outgearing me quite some, and I had to struggle for threat, but I liked it. It made me proud that I could do whatever the fight asked of me AND push out enough threat to keep aggro, even though it was the first time I went into Zuls. Plus it makes sense you know? I'm the tank, but that guy over there shooting fire and ice at you is much more dangerous in actual fact.. Yet since I'm a big scary bear and also hitting you (like a truck instead of like a train) you're still attacking me. I think this story can get away with this current factor three, but with a factor five? Don't think so. So Blizzard better give us something back for it. Luckily, it looks as though they are going to do that, with survivability becoming more active instead of just passively stacking stats. I'm hoping they'll do this right. And if they do it right, they're gonna give us something back in terms of gearing. Right now it feels pretty boring to me. Hey look I got an upgrade! Gem Agi/Sta, reforge anything that isn't crit or mastery to dodge. That's pretty much stat-stacking to me. What Greg Street is hinting at (you'll need hit/exp/crit/perhaps even haste for generating resources which you'll then use for your surviving abilities) sounds appealing to me. Unfortunately for us tanks, they're first taking something away from us, and in 'a later patch' giving us something back. From the viewpoint of my hunter though, rejoice. Worrying about threat all that much when you're DPSing, while it might sound logical, feels stupid.
  1. gdahgsfhs's Avatar
    Now if only they could fix the whiney, doomsayer, cynical, self-righteous, selfish, annoying, ignorant, anti-social "community" !

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