Tanking Paradigm In Legion – Or, How Magic Damage Almost Ruined the Game

Lately, the tank community has been a bit grouchy. A bit bear-like, over…bears.

Yeah, I tried to make that joke.

Moving on!

So it’s not really a secret at this point that Guardian Druids have, for most of Legion, been rated as the “best” tanks by progression raiders. There can be strong cases made for nearly every tank spec, to be sure – but in the end, looking at the cutting edge, one thing seems to be a commonality – an orange, overly large health bar leading the charge against those world first kills.

So why is that? What has been going on in the game to lead to this?

Magic.

More so than usual, that is.

Tanks are, currently, really well designed around the standard fights that have been a staple of World of Warcraft for the past 13 years. Everyone has a strong active mitigation ability that prevents large amounts of physical damage, armor is pretty well balanced across the board, and for those classes with less, they get well-built compensatory mechanisms like Vengeance’s built-in flat 10% damage reduction. Everyone has talent selection to reduce and smooth damage intake further, or to take their characters in vastly different directions. Most classes also now have a sort of manageable baseline mitigation for magic damage – DK shields have always eaten it, and they get Anti-Magic Shell, Demon Hunters get Empower Wards, Warriors have Ignore Pain and Spell Reflect, Monks now have magic Stagger built right in, and Paladins get it baked into Shield of the Righteous.

Druids, however, are extreme outliers.

Druids, currently, have the powerful Mark of Ursol, which reduces incoming magic damage with no cooldown, but a 45 rage cost. Basically, you can cycle it in instead of Ironfur when you know the majority of threatening damage intake will be magic. On top of this baseline mitigation, Druids through their artifact also get Adapative Fur, increasing resistance to same-school damage for subsequent attacks, Survival Instincts as a powerful, multi-charge damage reduction, Barkskin, as an “oh shit” button, and their artifact ability, Rage of the Sleeper. All of these work against magic damage, and the last 3 also work against physical damage. Couple all of these things with the highest health pool among tanks, high base armor, and talents like Pulverize, and you can see where the problem comes in.

This was exacerbated, tremendously, in Nighthold. Nighthold was the first of its kind, a raid where nearly every boss had some sort of heavy, difficult magic damage component. Progression walls, like Star Augur Etraeus, made this problem even worse, by attack solely with magical damage (in fact, short of comet impacts and the Thing That Should Not Be’s regular melee attacks, you take damn near zero physical damage in that fight). While there weren’t many fights like Etraeus, most fights had large, threatening magical components – making Druids the de facto strongest tank.

While Tomb of Sargeras curbs this slightly, they would still be by far stronger than most tanks, given the large number of damage reduction options for all damage, coupled with baseline AM for both physical and magical attacks.

Today, Blizzard came out to confirm that they have something of a solution for this.

https://us.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/20753557919?page=23#448

For those at work/unable to click – Mark of Ursol for Guardian Druids is gone in patch 7.2.5!

At first, as my guardian is my current “main-alt” I went “whoa, no” but as I thought about it and read the post, I think this is a good, solid change that should better smooth out the tank balance of the game. Druids are far too strong against magic damage, that isn’t really a controversial thing to say – and while, on the surface, removing Ursol seems to hurt them a lot, the ecosystem of Druid abilities supports them better than you might expect. Between Adapative Fur and the active cooldowns for damage reduction, Druids will still be very strong. Plus, they have the largest health of any tanks, meaning that large hits of unmitigated magic can still be recovered quickly. Scary incoming damage can be dropped drastically via Survival Instincts, or taken and healed back with Frenzied Rejuvenation. Further smoothing can be done via Barkskin if needed, or Rage of the Sleeper.

Overall, it’ll have to wait for 7.2.5 PTR to see just how big of a change this is, but so far, it looks like a good step in the right direction for tank balance.

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