GC has been posting on the forums, mostly about the needed buff to Protection Warriors sustained damage, but he's also touched on the AE aspect of tanking. Let's break down what the Crab has communicated.
"There are differences in how tanks generate AE threat, and therefore damage. Warriors are jealous of the DK and especially paladin persistent area-based damage, and the others are jealous of the warrior's burst AE threat on incoming adds. Druids are jealous of anyone with more than one button. :("
Let me stop right here and comment. Other tanks really seem to overestimate Consecrate. The spell isn't the be all and end all of AE Tanking that other tanks think it is. It is actually a fairly weak spell and won't hold aggro against other tanks AE. Because it ticks like a DoT, Thunderclap and Shockwave can pull off it due to their ‘snap’ aggro nature. I’ve personally seen Blood Boil, and DnD pull off of Consecrate. Although talking with my Blood DK co-Tank, we both seem to think the other one has the leg up on threat during an AE pull. I haven’t tanked enough with a Druid to see how it interacts with Swipe.
But comparing Consecrate alone to the AE toolkit of other tanks isn’t really fair. Tanks blame Consecrate, but its really the entire AE toolset of Paladins that they envy.
Paladins have an amazing array of AE tools of which Consecrate is only a part. Think about it. Nearly every spell in our rotation has some sort of AE component. Hammer of the Righteous, Seal of Command (Cleave), Seal of Vengeance/Corruption (when combined with Hammer of Righteous), Holy Shield and Holy Wrath all have an AE. When the whole arsenal is brought to bear, Paladins can produce excellent AE threat and damage.
"So, yes, one way of handling this is to give every tank a burst AE attack like Thunderclap, a sustained AE attack like Consecrate, and a mass taunt like Challenging Shout just for good measure. That's the kind of thing we are really reluctant to do though because it just works against the justification for having 4 tanking classes when they all perform the same way including using the same kind of tools. Now, on the other hand no tank should be horribly gimped in any of those situations, and except for rare exceptions they really aren't. We're mostly talking quality of life issues here. "
I'd love to have something like Challenging Shout. I’d love a snap AE aggro tool like Thunderclap, although in IceCrown, Holy Wrath does a very nice job of creating that snap AE aggro.
But GC is right here. If you give everyone the exact same toolkit there really isn't much point to having different classes. The important distinction is that one Tank isn’t horribly gimped, and GC concludes that they really aren't.
"Long-term, the paladin manner of generating AE damage and threat is probably too good, especially given how simple it is. "
WARNING!!! WILL ROBINSON!! WARNING!!
Bells, whistles and alarms should go off in the head of every Paladin who reads this. If GC thinks our AE threat is too good, it's probably in line for a nerf. Hopefully, the 'long-term' he's talking about here is Cataclysm. /cross fingers
I hope the Development team keeps in mind that Paladin tanks can use Holy Wrath on virtually everything in IceCrown right now, but the spell has an 'Undead only' restriction which makes it useless most of the time. Also like Consecrate, Holy Wrath is a hungry little bugger. Holy wrath uses 20% base mana and consecration uses 22% base mana.
"To be honest, we have very mixed feelings on the whole AE tanking game. We brought the druid and warrior more in line with the paladin for fear of recreating the Shattered Halls / Mount Hyjal experience, where other tanks just weren't competitive."
Let's not forget that during the days that Mount Hyjal and Shattered Halls were relevant content, Warriors were far and away the best tank, and this was by design. "... in classic and BC because warriors were designed to be the best tank. When there were situations that other classes started to outstrip warriors, we took steps to make sure the warriors still came out on top."
Mount Hyjal was how a lot of Paladin Tanks got their Tanking spots. It's how I got my shot at T6 content. Paladins had to fight tooth and nail for their spots because we had such an uphill climb against preconceived notions from Vanilla that Paladins were healers only and the massive benefit you got from having a Warrior tank.
We touted our AE threat generation because it was really the only advantage we had. Our slogans back then were things like ‘When in doubt, round ‘em up and Consecrate’, ‘Who needs CC?’ and ‘CC stands for Constant Consecration’
We carved a niche out for ourselves as ‘the AE tank’. Warriors were better on single targets. Warriors took less damage, and got Uncrushable at the touch of a button. Warriors had better cooldowns. Shoot, Paladins didn’t HAVE a cooldown in those days.
But nobody could hold a pack of a dozen Ghouls off a Seed of Corruption spamming Warlock like a Paladin. And once enough high ilevel Badge gear was available that Paladins could meet the Effective Health minimums for a fight, we started getting some shots at bosses as well. Raid leaders started to think, 'gee, if the Paladin can hold threat so well on the trash, he can let our DPS go all out on the Boss as well'.
We even came up with gimmicks like using a Paladin Tank healing a Warlock to control Morogrim Tidewalker's murlocs or using our mana based resource system to limit damage done by Reliquary of Souls in Phase 3.
But mostly Paladins were relegated to offtanking, adds and farm kills.
"What that has led to of course is the AE tank + AE style of damage for almost every pull. You need the tools to be able to tank legitimate adds fights (imagine lots of incoming mobs), but does that mean every pull needs to devolve into that? We'd like to see less AE overall, so buffing everyone's AE tools isn't going to be tops on our agenda. That does however mean that we really can't afford to have a "best AE tank", and while things are more fair there than they were in BC, they aren't fair enough."
‘aren’t fair enough’ is further indication that Paladins are in line for nerfs. I don’t like being nerfed, no one really does. I can only hope that they are thinking Cataclysm at this point and not a minor patch in the IceCrown cycle. GC’s modus operandi is to talk about the nerf for a while before revealing what the actual nerf is. This is his way of softening the blow so to speak.
As I pointed out above Paladins needed the 'best AE tank' during tBC. But today, Paladins are competitive tanks in every way. We simply don't need 'best AE tank' as our niche anymore. We can get our tanking spots based solely upon our ability as Tanks. Raid Leaders pick those tanks that “are available, confident, prepared, and understand what they're doing and know their weaknesses." - Ciderhelm, founder of Tankspot
But as far as the design challenge of not having every pull devolve into an AE situation, Rohan over at Blessing of Kings has some great ideas. I'll defer to his wisdom on this one.
Personally, I enjoyed the Crowd Control of tBC era heroics, but I wonder if players will be willing to go back to 45 minute to hour long heroic runs when sub 30 minutes have become the norm in Wrath.
Ultimately my fear is that the Developers will miss the mark and overnerf Paladin AE especially given the limited amount of PTR testing any minor patch receives. But until we have something concrete from the Dev team, I'm forced to take a wait and see approach.
I do wonder if a making it harder for Paladins to hold AoE will cause Paladin tanks to queue up less often as a Tank in LFD. Paladin Tanks are by most accounts one of the most popular tanks to see in LFD. If less queue up as Tanks it would make the queue problem even worse than it is today.