In current raid content if your tanks are out of cooldowns, drop below 50% health and don’t get a heal landing in the next two seconds, they’re roadkill. Healers are conditioned to panic if they see tanks drop low on health for even a fraction of a second. As for low health dps, if the tanks are in trouble, you’re on your own. Stand in a boss’ cleave, you are dead dps. Stay in Fire for more than one tick, you are dead dps. Fail to move out of the way of Bad Shit, you are dead dps. Worse, you’ll probably take someone else with you. Right now, fully raid buffed, Calli is rocking 37k health. Calli is a Mage. She wears a dress. I’ve seen tanks in VoA with less health than that. And yet, Calli is still seriously fragile in heroic 25 man raids. She can survive one hit from the likes of Malleable Goo if she’s on full health, and she’ll be dead seconds later if there’s not a heal on its way. In Cataclysm, things are seriously different and tanks and healers are having a hard time adjusting to it.
There was a quote I heard from a healer doing beta testing on Cataclysm a while back which perfectly illustrated the differences between healing raids on live and healing in the next expansion. It went something like this:
“I struggled to heal even a 5 man until I realised that I didn’t actually need to keep the tank and dps on 100% health all the time. Once I realised that a tank or even a dps on 30% health was in no immediate danger of dying from anything I started to relax and enjoy healing again.”
I’ve seen green level 305 dps plate armour with a third again as much stamina on it as the current best in slot epic tanking plate. The gear reset coming when the expansion hits is to going to send a lot of folks into deep shock. All that gucci gear you’re struggling to get in Icecrown right now? It’s going to be vendor junk real soon, homeys. With the stat inflation on Cataclysm gear, no-one’s going to be dying anytime soon if they take a 20k hit. You will not be one-shotted by a Lava Burst crit even in pve gear.
All of which leads me in a fairly roundabout way onto the real point of this post, which is about a couple of tanking experiences I’ve had recently in current content. I get asked to log a tank for guild groups doing random dungeons fairly regularly. Now you’d expect a guild random dungeon to be smooth sailing, and in most peoples’ experience you’d be absolutely right. Gorn and Sithica both have 50% avoidance and Sithica, the “squishiest” of my two tanks, has over 42k health unbuffed. Gorn tanks Heroic ICC10 with ease and Sithica could too. Niether of them have anything to fear from 5 man heroic dungeon content, except when you’re doing a 5 man with certain players from my guild, you cannot keep aggro for a second.
I join a guild group and see certain 25 man heroic-geared names in the party and I just get a sinking feeling. I know that the dps are going to be pulling for me, often grabbing the next pack while I’m still dealing with the last one. There is no single target dps. They pull the next pack with aoe and don’t care if I’m ready or not. It’s not that I’m slow, I know the healer likes a fast pace and I know she can handle it, it’s just that 5 man content is so utterly boring for these guys that the only way to make it mildly interesting is to see how far they can push themselves. I know you’re all thinking “Let the dumb pricks die if they won’t let the tank dictate the pace and hold aggro” but it’s not like that, they’re not being malicious, they’re just enjoying the game. And in any case, it’s not that easy to “let them die”. Not that I have any pangs of conscience about it or anything, but the little buggers just won’t die!
Last week we were doing Old Stratholme and by the time we’d cleared the gauntlet with me desperately running after the dps who were having the time of their lives blowing shit up, I just quit and switched to Fury spec and gear for Mal’ganis and the Twilight Corruptor. It didn’t make any difference at all, except stuff died a little faster. Last night we cleared Utgarde Pinnacle in about seven minutes. At one point the healer whispered me to not panic if I suddely lost all aggro from Blessing of Protection on the next trash pack, then proceeded to BoP me while the Hunter misdirected to the Warlock. And the little bugger lived! They were actually making a game out of trying to get the Warlock killed from trash aggro (not that he needed their help) and couldn’t kill him! He even took it as a challenge and happily played along.
It gets worse. On Hellscream this weeks’ weekly raid quest is Instructor Razuvious. just to refresh your memory, he’s a boss who hits so hard that he cannot be tanked by a player and has to be tanked by a Mind Controlled npc. Even that npc will die if he doesn’t have his Bone Shield up, so you have to switch tanks between the npcs regularly. Or at least, that’s how it used to work when Razuvious was current raid content. Yesterday, one of the Laser Chickens actually managed to pull aggro off the tanking npc, an npc whose taunt is on something like a 20 second cooldown. Dead chicken? Nope. Guess what, fact fans? With ICC25 Heroic dps and healers, you don’t even need tanks for raid bosses anymore. I’ve never felt so completely and utterly useless.
All of which leads me back to that quote from the healer in the beta test. The realisation finally sunk in last night that I am that beta tester, except I’m playing on Live. Once I realised that not only do I not have to keep aggro on everything all of the time, that in fact it doesn’t matter if dps are pulling aggro, I started to relax and have fun again. When you’re this far ahead of the content, roles cease to mean anything. Anyone can tank, because anyone can tank. All you need is to be the one with aggro. Survivability is a non-issue.
I can recall back in vanilla WoW that my Rogue couldn’t solo Deadmines until he was level 40. I recall being very pleased, relatively early in The Burning Crusade, when my level 70 druid was sufficiently epic geared to be able to farm Scholomance alone for drops that Calli could disenchant for profit. That’s a 20 level gear difference in vanilla and a 15 level gear difference in TBC before you were sufficiently overgeared to be able to completely trivialise the content. Right now in Wrath we’re trivialising current content.
Cataclysm, we’re ready for you now!