Monday, May 03, 2010

Cataclysm Tank Theorycraft

Via Honor's Code and, comes an observation at Blue Murder that, in Cataclysm, a 10-man tank will have just as much health as a 25-man tank. Therefore the 25-man boss cannot do more dps to the tank, though, because the tank will not have more stamina than in 10-man. However, 10-mans only have 3 healers, while 25-mans have 6-8 healers, so what are all these extra healers supposed to do?

I think this observation is looking at Cataclysm through the lens of the current game.

Right now, the most important variable for a tank is her Worst-case Time to Live. Because bosses hit so hard and fast, a tank needs enough effective health so that she can survive long enough for a heal to land. This is why Effective Health (Stamina + Armor) has been the king tank stat for so long. Effective Health directly increases your Worst-case Time to Live. Increasing your Time to Live from 2.0s to 3.0s makes a huge difference to the healers' ability to keep the tank up.

But Cataclysm is set to change this, by increasing a tank's normal Time to Live significantly. 2.0s to 3.0s is huge, but is going from 10s to 15s as important? Once the Time to Live is high enough, increasing it further doesn't really help anymore. If a tank has 60k health, but the most damage the boss does to her is 50k in 10s, she has significantly more health than she really needs.

In Cataclysm, the limiting resource is supposed to be healer mana. If a 10-man has 3 healers with 30k mana, then--ignoring mana regeneration--the raid can heal 90k mana worth of damage. A 25-man with 7 healers can heal 210k mana worth of damage. The extra damage can come to the tanks, or go to the raid or whatever. The incoming damage-per-second does not matter as much as the total damage taken and the efficiency of the healers.

Since the normal Time to Live will be high enough such that healers will have time to heal efficiently, tanks won't feel the need to maximize Effective Health. I predict that tank theorycraft in Cataclysm will shift to minimizing Damage Taken, focusing on Armor and Avoidance, rather than raw Stamina. Damage that is prevented in some fashion does not have to be healed, thus preserving the healer's mana. This increases the limiting resource available, and makes it less likely that the raid will wipe because the healers ran out of mana.

Of course, this prediction relies on the design direction where a tank can actually take several hits before dying. If that doesn't come true--if the Time to Live drops to a low value--then Stamina will be king once again.


  1. I think you're right here. It's also worth remembering that the itemisation changes they're making to cloth, leather and mail will mean a lot more stamina for all raid members. I'd say that probably suggests that we'll be seeing a lot more raid-wide damage in encounters. They've already stated that they intend the bosses themselves to hit less hard, but more frequently. More members in the raid taking damage over time is going to mean more healing is needed to keep everyone up.

    Additionally if the bosses are hitting frequently but consistently instead of having large spiky and random damage - eg where the RNG decides it hates you and you fail to avoid 3 hits in a row and find yourself suddenly at 5% health from 100% nearly instantly as happens in Wrath - then those hits would be a lot easier to balance for 25s. A small amount of extra damage on each hit would add up to a lot more to heal over the course of the fight, without necessarily overwhelming the tank's stamina pool, and it could be easily compensated for by the extra healers.

    The interesting thing with that though is that consistent damage ticks seriously favours HoT-based healing. I hope that doesn't give Druids too much of an advantage over the rest.

  2. We'll see!

    Remember too that stamina will increase tank dps in Cata via the vengeance buff. A 400 stamina trinket (for example) will increase attack power by 436 for a warrior. It will be more for a paladin I guess because their stamina will double dip to add strength and agility.

    I think Blizzard will have to work quite hard to cure us of our stamina addiction.

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  4. Sigh, I don't seem to be able to get this right do I?

    I see that touched by the light has been changed to strength, so I guess they won't double dip. I should probably not talk about paladins very much :)

  5. Also there's the factor that a 25 man group will most certanly have all the dispells it needs, while in 10 man it's a lot harder.

  6. Brain storming here. Perhaps Cat's Bosses will come with linked Guards and fights will once again require more strategy than just "Tank 'em all!". The Main Tank can't tank 'em all because she will be overwhelmed within seconds, even with 6-8 Healers trying to keep her up. So now you'll need more Off-Tanks or...Crowd Control!

    Or maybe (as NegativeZero has already noted) Bosses will do damage to more than just the Tank and to those in a 90-180 degree arc in front of them. Perhaps Bosses will have special abilities/attacks that do splash damage to everyone around them, but then Guilds will just load up on ranged DPS. So perhaps Bosses will come with ranged, multi-target attacks. Chain Lightning, Cones of Cold, Fireballs, etc., which could be aimed at anyone but the Tank.


    Maybe the entire party will automatically take damage just by engaging the Boss. Maybe Bosses will have some type of damaging "Boss-aura" which affects everyone within range, and which hits harder & harder the longer the Boss is allowed to live, thus Boss fights become a DPS race to the finish. Can the Raid take down the Boss before the Boss's DEOT takes them out?


  7. Why make a reference to tank DPS, anyway? It seems like a red herring to the entire discussion.

    Not to mention that the extra raid buffs should mean the 25s tank actually is doing more DPS.

  8. Hopefully there will be a couple of Cata bosses that hit so fast to actually make a block value set worth having, assuming that's still a stat ofc. (If not, perhaps even gemming for Strength to maximise the internal Block Value, if healer's mana gets bad enough.)

  9. Hopefully there will be a couple of Cata bosses that hit so fast to actually make a block value set worth having, assuming that's still a stat ofc. (If not, perhaps even gemming for Strength to maximise the internal Block Value, if healer's mana gets bad enough.)
    They have already posted their changes on Block/Block Value
    Each succesful block will stop 30% of damage. There is no way to maximise this, 30% regardless if its Hogger or Arthas

  10. The reason why I refer to tank dps is because many tanks care about their dps. Certainly the delta between tank classes' dps output is a major bone of contention atm (for reference, I play a warrior). If a stamina stacking tank does 500 or 1000 dps more than an avoidance tank, won't it be tempting to gem for stamina?

    Many of the responses to my original post make the assumption that Blizzard will be able to design encounters to balance incoming tank damage in Cata. Given that this is something they have failed to do consistently throughout warcraft in general and WotLK in particular (block anyone?), and it is not really a point of contention that balance will be harder to achieve in 4.0 since 25 man tanks will be relatively weaker than they are now, it seems a trifle optimistic to simply assume that "cataclysm will fix it".

    But, as I said, we'll see!

  11. What you're describing as an alternative to "time to live" is pretty much how original WoW raiding worked. However, I really doubt that's what we'll be seeing because healers found it immensely borrowed to "heal on schedule".

    My suspicion is that what they'll do instead is making quick, reactive healing incredibly mana inefficient and efficient healing incredibly slow. So in a 10-man, you'd have your tank getting hit with an unpredictable spike ~25 sec, but in a 25-man you'd see that unpredictable spike every ~10s.

  12. In reference to Tank Dps,especially warrior tank dps. I really dont consider it a real issue.

    I've been tankin since vanilly and tbh Wrath has really done a 180 in terms of warrior tanking.

    I appreciate the dps boon and really appreciat the mobility <3 Warbringer, but first and formost i became a tank to protect my team.

    Mitigation and Threat > Dps anyday.

    sorry off topic

  13. can't seem to spell or type today sorry.