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. Azrile's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Caiada View Post
    Wow. I can only imagine how much people will be mad about this. I think it's a good-ish idea though...
    They are fixing something that isn´t broke. Ok, so now we rotate among active damage abilities.... they are going to increase tank threat, which means we will mostly just be spamming AOE abilities now.... and then they will spend a lot of time ´fixing´our active survivability abilities (shield block etc).. and in the end, we will still be just pushing a few buttons while worrying about positioning and not standing in crap... it will feel exactly the same.

    My whole ´hate´of this is that it is big waste of time, where the developers are walking themselves in circles changing something that isn´t broken, and won´t be any better after the change. It will NOT make the game any more fun for most players. The devs need to learn that this is a game, not a science project.. they need to start adding fun back.

    There are SO MANY areas of the game that need to have some fun added to them.. yet the devs are wasting time doing all this senseless crap.
  1. webdonkey's Avatar
    stop fixing shit that aint broken... swtor... hurry plz... every day i play wow a kitten dies... then blizzard " fixes " someting, and another 10 die! retarded !
  1. jayremy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Calamari View Post
    It's not just the class homogenization that worries me in this new design philosophy they're working towards. A skill cap for tanks is fine.. but if you start designing boss encounters to require the tank to use a large arsenal of different mitigation cds, then the average unexperienced tank might be overwhelmed by the task of managing his survival by himself. DK tanking does require a fair ammount of practice.. otherwise they can be very squishy.
    I highly doubt perfection of mitigation will be a requirement, likely it will more so be a thing that has a sizable margin for error, that is what it will be balanced around.

    I great tank when it comes to mitigating things will be able to go above the expectations, where likely content will be balanced around a mediocre player, not a pro player or a bad one.

    Bad players will likely not be hit very hard, at least no more than threat already has wasted them on, mediocre and highly skilled ones will have something more dynamic and or to work to.

    I think the goal being, what is "fun" is appropriate. There will be always good amount of lead way when you design content around player skill versus raw data/numbers (like dps spec rotations to gear ratios and such).
  1. frott's Avatar
    they won't admit that vengeance basically sucks as a concept.

    in tank swaps: tank 1 tanks for a bit, maxes vengeance, tank 2 taunts.

    unless tank 1 completely stops attacking (and can still have effects in the air) they will likely pull aggro back immediately over the new tank that has no vengeance.

    hit and expertise is still boring here. i see this long blog post which amounts to "we're making threat more." it changes nothing about itemization (boring), stacking to 102.4 and having a DPS tank set for certain fights.

    the survivability a tank adds from pressing buttons is completely arbitrary, every tank can practically AFK currently. Here are the fights for me as a paladin tank:

    shannox: tank the one dog. when spear is thrown run away, daze them. move away from traps.
    bethtilac: taunt a spider off a rope, go up. when is about to blow up, go in hole. when comes down tank it until stacks then run out. taunt back when other tank has stacks.
    rhyolith: adds pop out, threat them away from people especially healers with ae aggro. when boss comes taunt it. might as well use DPS/threat gear because nothing hits hard.
    alysrazor. grab egg, pull to worm just to kill worm fast. pull to other worm when tantrum. dps gear rotation, cooldowns useful at tantrum but not really necessary. interrupt adds. wait till 5 stacks on other tank and taunt bird. do that a few times.
    baleroc: other tank gets 3 stacks, taunt. then taunt back after tank gets the rape blade. zzz.
    majordomo: tank scorp. on cat, switch to add and position after leap so they're both facing. zzz.
    ragnaros: taunt off tank at 4 (annoying aggro issues here if vengeance and knockbacks are bad). taunt scions. zzz.

    None of these fights in regular are made more interesting by requiring me to push a button for mitigation, or threat problems. The bottom line is threat is automatic with 0 hit and 0 expertise due to vengeance if the dps waits like 20 seconds to really go all out at the outset of a fight.

    Really blizz needs to fess up that the reason for this change is that a raid geared tank ABSOLUTELY SUCKS in 5 mans for threat unless they cap out threat stats... no time for vengeance / too much mitigation, and no tank bothers doing dungeons and having a dungeon set if they're raid geared anyway. It is no fun for a tank to go into a dungeon with a DK putting AE dots on everything immediately and pingponging threat where i'm relying on autoattacks and procs to multiply a magic number? Complete shit.

    How about this, remove vengeance and have every dps and healer slowly gain a stacking "lowers threat" debuff. It's not fun, right? So why inflict that on tanks.
  1. Azrile's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Jogan View Post
    Wohooo! I am loving this change. I primarily will have threat problems at the start of fights and in aoe tanking(play a druid). This will allow me to focus much more on my role in the fight. It will also allow well geared dps to dps normally when they are paired with a lesser geared tank in the dungeon finder. Those who are whining and complaining about this change can go drown in their tears.
    Tanks rarely have threat problems with mobs they have hit. Most threat issues in 5 mans come when DPS jumps the gun on adds and attacks something before we get any hit at all on them. My biggest problem tanking heroics is when a ranged hits something before I do, then gets it out of range of my swipe, which just means i have to taunt.. no big deal.

    The problems that happen in the first 15 seconds of a pull are still going to happen because you can multiple 0 threat as many times as you want, and it is still 0 threat.
  1. xXCHAOSXx's Avatar
    So what, now I could rend, thunderclap and that's enough to hold threat?
  1. jayremy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by xXCHAOSXx View Post
    So what, now I could rend, thunderclap and that's enough to hold threat?
    Maybe maybe not, but in the near future if that was all you did, you would die because the healer couldn't heal you. Issues being is all that "passive" mitigation is going to be nerfed, you are now going make use of active mitigation in place of threat building abilities.

    There will be room for error on the mitigation, but mitigating damage is something you wont just leave it up to gear to do, but timing and wise choices of managing resources.

    Full fruition of Blizzards plans will not take place til weeks maybe even months from now.

    Prepare for some sweeping tank changes, for all tanking classes, even DKs in the future to fulfill this goal.

    TRUST ME for whatever reason you can find, it will likely be the best for everybody. Stop looking at the changes to threat and ignoring the fact mitigation will come into play. Try to imagine the fun things that would come from that style, again "try" to and you will likely understand.
  1. frott's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jayremy View Post
    Maybe maybe not, but in the near future if that was all you did, you would die because the healer couldn't heal you. Issues being is all that "passive" mitigation is going to be nerfed, you are now going make use of active mitigation in place of threat building abilities.
    Well, I'm at combat table coverage cap right now: every attack at me is either dodged, parried or blocked. I've killed regular rag this way. I'm pretty sure I could do the entire raid without ever pressing any activated cooldowns, even holy shield.

    With 0 hit / expertise, I wait about 20 seconds of doing a perfect rotation to have more threat than anyone could pass if they tried. Now that time will be reduced, so my "dps abilities" will go in the toilet. Except oops, they have fights like alysrazor where i have to do dps to kill the birds, so they can't just replace dps with mitigation.

    Taking my current stats of being as capped in combat as you possibly can be, them just making it so that i have to activate my mitigation doesn't change anything or make the game more interesting. It's a mindless rotation either way, right?

    they simply won't admit that vengeance sucks, and they miscalculated (or something) about combat table coverage. They removed defense but essentially all that happened was mastery became defense and crushing blows became "unmitigated hits." In fact its even MORE CRUCIAL to get combat table coverage as an unmitigated hit does more damage than crushings used to. Oops.
  1. Duronos's Avatar
    I really hopes this doesn't destroy Tricks of the Trade...
  1. aztr0's Avatar
    Here's the situation. Blizzard realized that there will be issues with threat when it comes to random dungeons. I was in that position recently. A tank was about 346 ilvl gear and a warlock was at least 371 ilvl. The demo warlock decides to go all out once the tank pulled. This change will help undergeared tanks hold aggro from dumb DPSers who like to go all out with their high gear levels. When I told the warlock about it, he just saids its cool I soulshattered. Ugh... messing up the boss placement and all that crap, is not fine, especially with some other nub healer healing the instance for the first time.
  1. Flaks's Avatar
    According to the new blue posts they'll be making mitigation more active. Can't wait to see how that turns out. I might start tanking again.
  1. Karot's Avatar
    Haters gonna hate. Half the Wow population hates changes, the other half welcomes it. No matter what it is. *yawn*
  1. destero1's Avatar
    About a time to get rid of the threat. For the most of the fights it has been a non-issue quite a long time now, all it does it gives a ~15sec window where dps can pull the mob from you and after that it becomes obsolete. Tank switching is something that has to be done more carefully after this fix, but IMO things like tank switches should be unforgiving. (hell, stopping those auto-attacks should not be that hard..)

    Playing actively a blood DK and having other tank classes @85 as well, I'm really waiting to see how Blizz will include active mitigation part to other classes. A good thing about active mitigation is that it shifts the survivability from gear to skill. This might allow the freshly dinged proficient player to actually start tanking quite early before he even has a full eq set. And in harder encounters it really rewards the skillful instead of those who might have a tad better gear.

    I'm a bit worried, tho, about the "casual catering", meaning that the "active" part of the mitigation might be so low that you don't actually have to do anything right if you're not doing any hc progression.. But well, considering that even now LFD features "less-skilled" "tanks" with shitty specs and wrong gear requiring more HPS than one actually has to push during hc raid encounter, maybe it's ok that quite of bit of the mitigation still stays passive.
  1. Fallenjack's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by SilverKnight View Post
    Tanking started to be fun beginning of Cata , than with all the nerfs its an AOE grind fest again. A little challenge is not a bad thing blizz, some of us do enjoy things not being handed to us.
  1. Rawer's Avatar
    If only patch content could happen over night like this Ghostcrawler's crazy ideas gets hotfixes.
  1. Vincent's Avatar
    So now... All other things being equal, like moving, being on the right target, knowing the dance, etc... Skill at DPS: the perfect rotation for the fight and expert use of abilities and management of resources. Skill at Healing: the perfect anticipation of needs in the fight and expert use of abilities and management of resources. Skill at Tanking: randomly mashing keys What happened to teamwork being the most important skill? Ya know, being able to play your class well in any sort of group? I raided as a rogue up through Ice Crown and raided as a tank since Ice Crown... It's clear, finally, that Blizzard has little no idea what its vision is or, really, what it's doing. Add fun, yes, but dumbing things down rarely if ever equates to fun. I'm afraid to look down for fear I will see a shark.
  1. biglookdog's Avatar
    DPS have cooldowns to lower threat, give tanks cooldowns to Increase threat gain? could also make it like, during the cd, tanks hit chances are 90%.Poping your cd right at the begining of a fight or during burn phase isnt all that hard. This way the game wont be dumbed down to a suitable age group of 5+.The meaning of Maximizing dps has evolved since vanilla. It used to be focusing on the target your tank is currently on or assigned you to focus on to right now....aoe as much as you can and soon....spam all you have
  1. Felade's Avatar
    What I will not miss:

    Our fury warrior randomly dying because the boss parried the tank.

    Hollering at DPS in 5 mans about threat.

    Having to hold off on DPS as when DPSing.

    What I am looking forward to:

    Blood Shield is a fun mechanic. It will be nice to not have to focus on threat so much and worry just about survival. Also, having an interesting rotation the ENTIRE FIGHT not just the first five seconds will be awesome.

    What I am going to miss/am worried about:

    I am a little sad/worried about tricks and MD. Those are pretty cool abilities. We already have about 25 bajillion abilities that help people take less damage though so I don't see them being turned into mitigation cooldowns.

    I will miss Fade being awesome on my Shadow Priest.

    I am waiting to see what the point of doing your rotation right as a tank will mean. They will have to change things pretty drastically. If, for instance, warriors generated Rage by doing their rotation, and could use Rage to survive better, I think that would be interesting.

    I will miss my AE threat being uber as a Warrior tank.

    What will happen to talents like Incite, or Blood and Thunder, or even Heavy Repercussions, which are designed to generate threat? This design is going to have to completely tear out the old talents and glyphs as well.
  1. sKoToNy's Avatar
    I miss the days of Vaelastrasz and Broodlord in BWL, where threat actually mattered even more.. Personally I find it very engaging that I have to fight in order to get the attention of the boss and know when to press my mitigation tools when needed..
  1. Vasz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Skulver View Post

    I hate when Blizzard work on things that matter to other players instead of things that matter to me.
    I can guarantee there is not a single tank out there right now thinking "Thank god, my TPS has been poor all the way through firelands."

    Why do they have to do these things anyway? No news or changes for weeks and half way through firelands expansion, they change thret into something ... meaningless.

    It seems everything that Blizzard said they wanted to do in Cataclysm (healer mana regen, tank tps, raid/dungeon dificulty) is all slowley being undone.

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