Monday, January 18, 2010

Crowd Control and Tank Threat

In a comment to the last post, Jeremy offers another suggestion for promoting Crowd Control:
Another alternative is to make it difficult or impossible for a single tank to hold threat on all mobs simultaneously.

Back in the good (bad?) old days of vanilla WoW, when warriors were basically the only tanks and had very few AoE threat-generating abilities, you *had* to CC because the tank simply couldn't hold all of those mobs at once.

In BC, when tankadins became viable, their AoE tanking abilities became the gold standard: groups forgot about CC, and other tanks suffered because groups expected them to just tank everything. (As a warrior tank at the end of BC, I routinely felt like I just didn't have the tools to tank effectively.) In WotLK, this imbalance was fixed by giving *every* tank reasonable AoE capabilities, which made CC irrelevant.

Thus the "quick" fix for the lack of CC is to nerf every tank's AoE threat generation abilities to the point where they can't reasonably expect to hold more than three active mobs at once.

I don't agree with this idea. The thing is that there is an alternate strategy to Crowd Control if the tank's AoE threat is poor. The DPS simply focuses on a single target, and nukes them down one by one.

Now, admittedly, many DPS seem to find the concept of "focus fire" and "assisting" to be advanced techniques, but there's nothing really preventing them from learning. Kind of honestly, they seemed to have the same problem with "not breaking sheep".

A tank just has to generate enough AoE threat to get past the healers. Strictly speaking, good AoE threat is not absolutely necessary, it's just necessary if people want to use AoE spells.

Tankadins really came into prominence in TBC because it was "easier" for a paladin to gather everything and the raid AoE things down. I remember seeing Hyjal tanked by Warriors, and they were fine, you just had to be a little more careful.

You could have such weak AoE threat that the healers would pull off a tank, and that would make Crowd Control much more useful. But it would also make running dungeons a bit more dicey. Sheep breaks, and the mob runs straight to the healer. That's pretty much a recipe for a wipe.

Tanking is already an unpopular role. Making it harder for tanks probably isn't the best of ideas.

In a way, that may have been the bargain: Crowd Control was sacrificed to make tanking easier, making more people willing to try tanking. Overall, I'd say it was probably a good bargain. I would rather have more tanks than more use of Crowd Control.


  1. I think the tradeoff is a good one. But i'm not sure that more people are tanking now (even with the ridiculously short queue time).

    There are probably a lot of ways to make CC mandatory again. But the real question is do we really want to.

    Just like you mentioned in last article I'd rather not go back to the days of tempest keep and SSC with the chainsaw demons and when mages had to be chain sheeping stuff to prevent breaks all trash long, yay so fun.

    In instances it's not gone it's only not used because we're steamrolling and so cc loses time compared to aoe damage.

    But it can still be useful. First weeks of Halls of Reflection cc was appreciated, when you were lucky enough to have a player who remembered what it was.

    I think cc now is like spell interrupting. It's a lost art, but although we can be nostalgic of the times when it was needed, you really don't want it back to a mandatory level.

  2. You know, I remember back when tankadins were mocked as second rate tanks only good for off-tanks, because, "sure, they can grab piddly aggro on a bunch of mobs, but they can't generate enough threat to handle real dps."

    You know, way back three years ago.

  3. I'm actually a bit torn on this one.

    Yes, it's really nice not to have strategically plan every pull and map out your crowd control but at the same time this lack of problem solving an instance through crowd control has made running instances pretty darn stale. It's always the same, round 'em up and burn 'em down strategy now. Seeing some crowd control to Halls of Reflection was kinda refreshing when it happened.

    As well, you couple this design with instances becoming big grindfests for emblems and we've got a lot of players in the community totally obsessed with speed and efficiency, gear-checking anything and everyone since they want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Instances are no longer destinations but merely places to grind.

    I doubt that this design change has made more people want to tank. Tanking is easier now but that doesn't mean it's any more fun either in this current environment.

    Personally, I'd occasionally like to see some form of crowd control design in instances so the dps classes can play a more active role without going back to the old days of running an instance one mob at a time.

  4. I think Jeremy is spot on with that comment. I think pure dps classes in particular were more fun to play when crowd control was more of a utility. Hard to say whether the tradeoff in terms of fun has been a good one overall.

    I do wonder whether tankadins are actually good for the game though in their current state. Players lean rather heavily on their ease of play, high AE threat, insane survivability, and high damage.

  5. Yes and no.

    In a way, you're right.
    On my Warrior I can just mash 3-4 buttons, dance around a little and can hold a group to me.

    In a way, you're wrong.
    Because everything *was* CC'd back then, tanking was easier, because only *had* to keep threat on 2 mobs at once. Especially in raids. (ZG trash for example, max. 5 mobs, 2-3 tanks, some CC)

  6. The way I see it, there are the people who crave for speed and efficiency in gearing (as in, me who just got his 6th alt to level 80, know everything inside-out and just wants his gear so he can go raiding/pvp, and there are those who like the challenge of 5 man content (as in me when having geared these characters wanting to have fun with proper executions).

    One side is gonna like a really fast AOE fest with no risk of wipes, and the other some finely tuned content.

    The thing is, atm 5 man content is designed strictly for gearing purposes. In TBC era heroics were the same as now, simple badge runs. For the gearing character, as in 5 people in quest blues and ilvl187-200 normal dungeon blues, heroics do pose a certain level of difficulty.

    So the question here which I believe is worth posing is: "isn't today's 5 mans difficulty coherent with its rewards?"
    Let's face it, even for my alts in blues the upgrades are bad and quickly replaced.

    Therefore, I believe you cannot make such low-reward instances and expect them to be difficult. People will get sick and tired of them, not to mention the fact that their aim is to get alts and new characters geared pretty fast, which, would become rather hard with the increase in difficulty and the petty rewards.

    The solution, easy: Make an extra layer of heroics. Something like:

    -normal dungeons: as they are now, with their level based progression (as in Azjol-Nerub at 74, Nexus at 70 etc)

    - level 80 dungeons: just make all dungeons scale for level 80 (they should be like heroics today.). They award one badge per boss and same loot as today's heroics.

    -Heroic Dungeons. (5 man raiding)
    Super hard versions of the same dungeons. As in bosses hit like trucks, CC neccessary, AOE flying all over the place, enrage timers, the works. Make them scale with gear of the players, and give out the same ilvl loot as the current 10 man. Even worse, make it so that people will wipe in there like hell. With new patches, bosses can gain different new abilities, trash can become trickier etc.
    Ofc they should be on a weekly lockout or smth.

    There you go, everyone is happy.

  7. I don't think a super hard version of Halls of Stone would make anyone happy :)

  8. One thing that I thought would have been mentioned by now but hasn't is the fact that not every class' CC is created equal.

    I didn't spend much time at the level 70 during the TBC era, but I've heard stories of how shamans were always turned down for a heroic because the group was looking for "a third Mage." This, I think, is part of why Blizzard did away with CC in 5-mans: they wanted players to take DPS, not just certain classes.

    Of course, they've given some CC to each class now, but still, CC is not equal. For example, Priests have Shackle Undead, which only works on Undead mobs, and Druids have Entangling Roots, which I think can only be used indoors, and Hibernate, for beasts. Imagine a HoR where CC was necessary, instead of just useful; now if you're a DPS and you don't have a CC that will affect Undead, why would a group take you?

    You could prevent this by giving every class the exact same CC abilities, but then, that is homogenization on a level that Blizzard certainly doesn't want to go to.

    In short, the solution is more difficult than simply going "We should go back to requiring the CC of TBC heroics."

  9. It's interesting how MMORPGs have evolved. 10 years ago, the term Holy Trinity referred to Tank/Healer/Enchanter and now it refers to Tank/Healer/DPS. You basically couldn't do a lot of the tougher dungeons and areas in Everquest, for example, without a CC class like the Enc (or Bard or Paladin with Soothe in some cases).

    Of course this made putting together groups very time consuming but the pay off was that the strategies required were a lot more advanced, complex and rewarding.

    I'm not really sure how CC could be incorporated heavily into WoW without making it either a necessary class and nerfing the tanks.

    Maybe it's just best left how it is.

  10. Back in BC days, it wasn't just that you couldn't Seed of Corruption spam with a warrior tanking a group of 6 mobs, it was that the healer would usually get killed after the first heal. Back in those days, Thunder Clap only hit 4 mobs. The good warriors could shift position slightly to TC the other 2 mobs and tab/sunder or mouse-over sunder to hold mobs 5 and 6, but that was the rare case.

  11. I seem to have this debate every couple weeks in my guild. Someone starts waxing nostalgic about vanilla WoW and how it was harder.

    I hate CC in dungeons. It's not a skill check. It's time sink and a "do you have a brain stem" check. There is no difficulty in sheeping something and then not hitting the sheep. It served no purpose other than slowing down the dungeons and making you hate people who hit the sheep. I do not want 45 minute dungeon runs when all I am there for is a couple emblems.

    Frankly, I don't really like CC in raids either. I'm sure warlocks & mages would agree that sheep/banish duty on Executus and Garr was pretty brain-dead. CC on BWL dragonkin trash pulls was pretty annoying as well. Again, its not a skill check. Its tedious and slows the game down. Instead of focusing on the boss, someone is instead starring at an add and doing DPS when they can.

    What I would like to see more are fights like Jaraxxus and Deathwhisper. Where you have to dispell & interrupt and pay attention. Where you still focus on the boss, keep track of abilities boss, and make sure you global is ready when needed.

    It doesn't slow the game down, your still allowed to DPS, and more importantly, your focused on the boss where the action is. The skill is to weave your CC into your damage rotation. That is more engaging in my opinion.

  12. "I'm sure warlocks & mages would agree that sheep/banish duty on Executus and Garr was pretty brain-dead."

    Actually, as a Warlock in those days I PREFERED the Garr fight. That was the one fight where I actually felt like I was useful to the raid. Otherwise I was just spamming Shadowbolts and not using a pet and not using my DoTs (because of the Debuff limit).

    That said, I am mixed on the use of CC in heroics. I want it because it requires another level of thought for the DPS.

    When I'm tanking 5 mobs, I have to watch each one and be ready to switch targets to taunt / interrupt.

    When I'm healing I have to be watching the health of the entire party for dispels, heals AND I have to make sure I don't "stand in the bad".

    But when I'm DPS all I have to do is spam my biggest AOE ability until everything dies. It's mindless in the extreme.

    Give me another target that I have to watch to make sure it is CC'd, and suddenly I'm engaging two more brain cells.

  13. You could have such weak AoE threat that the healers would pull off a tank, and that would make Crowd Control much more useful. But it would also make running dungeons a bit more dicey. Sheep breaks, and the mob runs straight to the healer. That's pretty much a recipe for a wipe.

    That's actually exactly what I'd suggest! And unless my memory has failed me, that's what dungeons were like in vanilla WoW. The mage had to keep a close eye on her sheep, and the tank had to watch out for lazy CC'ers or CC that couldn't be reapplied (e.g., sap). If mobs weren't picked up promptly after CC broke, they'd head straight for the healer. I remember planning each pull very carefully to make sure we knew exactly which mobs were getting CC'ed and in which order they would be killed.

    That said, I totally agree with your summary: Blizzard has removed CC as a core component of the game in order to make tanking easier (and pick-up groups viable). We're playing a different game these days!

    Actually, here's one thing to consider: if CC were added back, how would it work with the Dungeon Finder? Since CC abilities vary widely, you couldn't just have a single CC role (1 tank, 1 healer, 1 cc, 2 dps). Instead, maybe the DPS would check a flag indicating that they're willing to use their CC abilities, and the Dungeon Finder would match the available CC abilities with an appropriate dungeon?

  14. I think partly there just needs to be some hard trash pulls and some AoE trash pulls.

    The best way to encourage CC is to have a stacking debuff on a long cast time. So if only 1 mob is out then it will only be 1 stack, but once multiple mobs are loose it can escalate. You can probably handle 2-3 adding it, but leaving 5-6 mobs loose means you need to AoE it down very quick.

  15. I would disagree with the assessment that CC was "removed" because of tanking. It was removed because all through BC and classic, you simply couldn't really run an instance without a Rogue and a Mage. No other class has CC worth anything when it comes to an instance, so you ended up having to shelve most DPS classes simply because they couldn't bring to the table what was needed.

    What would you rather do?

    1) Get a tank, a healer, and 3 DPS and then have fun in a dungeon; or
    2) Get a tank, a healer, one DPS, and then beg, borrow, or steal to try and get a Rogue and a Mage for your other 2 slots.

    I don't know about you, but whether it makes the game "easier" or not, I'd rather have option 1 because then it means I'm actually -playing- the game.

  16. CC has actually been made easier to apply since BC. Remember when hunters had to pull the desired mobs into the trap? Now you can put the trap 2 feet from the mob before the pull.

    Shamans whined all through BC that they couldn't get into a 5-man pug unless they were resto. So, they got hex.

    Repentance used to only work on humanoids and last, what, 10s? Now it lasts 1 min in PVE and can be used on dragonkin, undead, demons, and giants.

    The chance that you don't have a viable CC in a random group seems to be pretty small. Of course 95% of the low level hunters I've been grouping with in the dungeon finder sit there with their thumb in a hole in the ground.

  17. TBC was the height of CC where virtually every single pull needed one or two targets to be controlled.

    WotLK is the height of AoE where ZERO PULLS need a target be controlled.

    So meet in the middle: most of an instance can be AOE pulls, but give us 2 or 3 or 4 pulls that require CC.

    The problem is that the cat is out of the bag. AOE tanking is here and the majority of the playerbase seems to love it. Even in low level instances - such as Scarlet Monestary - I'm seeing AOE tanking.

    Hell, Blizzard gave us pulls that are difficult to AOE tank in Forge and Pit of Saron... and yet the majority of groups will balk at the idea of CC. They will expect the tank to round up the 3 casters 10 yards apart. They will expect the healer to heal them (the DPS) when they pull aggro. Then when one or the other fails and the DPS dies - they will blame the tank and healer instead of considering the use of CC.

  18. In 5 mans i loathe the current state of "just AoE them down!". Playing as a warrior tank, it seems theres just too many dps folks who either don't know how to cc meaning they don't really know the full potential of their class or disregard kill order and requests for cc just b/c they are too leet.

    Case in point, 5 man pull in HPoS with the 3 casters. I politely ask for dps to hold while i gather casters. 6k GS rogue jokes me about my gearscore. Commence pull rogue attacks out of order and gets killed,curses at me and says L2P and get some gear.

    I reply "Wow, a dps pulling aggro on an unmarked target and i need to learn how to play. I apologized to everyone else and dropped group"

    Vote kickin him wouldn't have worked b/c he was with 3 guildies aside from the heals.

    There was once a time long, long ago when tanks were allowed to grab aggro to start fights ;)