Friday, November 30, 2007

Tanking Hierarchy

I was reading Kaziel's thoughts on my (mis?)adventures in MMOs this morning. This post started as a comment on his blog but it started to get a little long and I felt it more deserving of its own post here.

If you don't read Kaziel, you really should. He seems to have a real understanding of the entire genre of MMORPGs. I find reading his blog has given me a better understanding of WoW and some of the decisions that go into making an MMO.

This morning he was writing about a comment Tigole made about Death Knights. Kaz is debating on what he wants for his tank character in the expansion. He has a Warrior, and a Paladin.

Tigole's exact words were: "We made some really good strides in The Burning Crusade to improve the feral druid as a hybrid tank/dps class. That will be the general direction we'll be looking to go with the death knight. Obviously, the protection warrior is in a good place in terms of dungeon and raid tanking. And the protection paladin is hands-down the best multi-target tank. Of course, there's always room for improvement, but you can see the general direction the tanking classes are headed. While all of these classes are capable of fulfilling similar roles, they offer very different abilities and playstyles." (bolding added by me).

I found Tigole's comments to be a huge concern for anyone who wants to assume a role as a Raid Main Tank as a Paladin. Basically, he's saying we're for AoE trash packs and not much else.

But then I have to look at the last dungeon he helped design: Zul'Aman. I have to look at the gauntlet to Eagle, I have to look at the Dragonhawk encounter.

When I joined my guild they had had some unsuccessful attempts at Paladin tanks, and some were skeptical of me.

Now in ZA, they are actually saying things like "this fight is soooo much easier with Honors". That to me is a good thing.

Kaz goes on to tell his take on the Tanking Hierarchy.

If you can imagine each of the current tanks falling along a line. This line represents the value to the raid the class generally brings with a "true tanking spec", when it is not tanking. By the phrase "true tanking spec" I mean an investment of no less than 41 points in the given tanking tree, with or without the 41 point talent.On the far right you have Protection Paladins and Protection Warriors. I'm not going to say which is further down on this side, because that boils down to individual players, specs and gear. Fact is that someone who specs as deeply into either of the Protection trees as I mentioned above will have very little utility outside of the tanking role. An additional bit of info is that I've found most people who spec to be tanks for raids will, in addition to spending over 41 points in their given tanking tree, spend their additional points outside the tanking tree on talents that will improve their abilities while tanking. By taking this approach they are able to expand their abilities while tanking at the expense of their non-tanking role value.On the far left you have Druids. Unlike Paladins and Warriors, Druid's melee DPS tree and their tanking tree are the same trees. While there will be some differences between someone who specs to be a bear tank and someone who specs to be a cat DPSer, many talents have overlap into both forms. This combined with both forms generally calling for the same stats (STR, AGI, & STA) means that a tanking Druid can more easily adjust to a DPS role, both in combat and out of it.

I've generally found this to be the case. Just to back up what he's saying, all 61 of my talent points are in talents that help me tank, even the points in the Retribution tree.

He then details an experiment he did with Warcrafter. My goodness that's a cool site. If you need to see how different gear, gem and enchant setups would affect your stats, it's the best site going. I've used it extensively deciding on what Badge rewards to buy, what Arena gear to get and what gems and enchants to use.

I really enjoy the play style of my Paladin. I like the slower pace of the game play. I like the gear metagame you have to play.

But at the same time, I want to feel like I'm making a solid and necessary contribution to my team defeating the encounter. I'm very encouraged by what I see in the design of Zu'lAman and I will watch with interest to see how the Sunwell encounters play out.
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