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Crowd Control II; The Tank Strikes Back

July 29, 2010

To be upfront, I am seriously concerned about the current state of crowd control in the Cataclysm beta. My worries take two forms; that tanks are instinctively likely to want to aoe tank rather than use crowd control and secondly that the mechanics incentivise them doing so.

Why tanks might dislike Crowd Control

To my mind, this comes down to two reasons:

1) Trust

The first is trust. One of the reasons that we become tanks is that we have trust issues in WoW. Now we may have to trust our healers (although I bet there isn’t a tank in the game who wouldn’t gladly be able to heal himself and forego the pleasure of allowing another to keep you alive) but we certainly don’t trust the dps. After all they all want to jump into fires or annoy the mobs who come and squish them, or run away when they pull aggro or use typhoon to purposely knock mobs away from your nice neat positioning.

In WoW, it is the dps of your own faction who are your true enemy. The mobs are just pieces in the war you are fighting with them.

But if crowd control becomes needed again, then we’ll have to trust that insane mage not to push up his damage numbers but instead to have a proper polymorph macro and use it responsibly. Trust a mage! Are you mad? Or a warlock?! I shudder at the thought.

This is especially going to be an issue with the LFG tool.

At the moment, I can run a dungeon with my Death Knight and be fairly certain that I can ignore the competence or lack of it of the dps. Unless it is Halls of Reflection I can also pretty much ignore the competence and power of the healer (although to a lesser extent). On my paladin and druid (who are undergeared in comparison), I have to worry a little about dps out-threating me if they have the sort of gear that can kill the Lich King and I do have to worry about a poor healer. But a couple of extra packs pulled? Probably not an issue.

If Crowd Control is needed then I will have to trust random people I have no connection with to do a really important job and if they fail I may be unable to survive their failure. I tank to avoid that. If I wanted to die because someone failed to do their job I’d be a dps myself.

Prediction Number 1 – there will be a greater shortage of tanks in the Dungeon Finder as tanks will stick with groups of friends and guild-mates.

2) Mechanics

Currently, a lot (probably most) of crowd control abilities are broken by damage. This is meant to incentivise 1) proper positioning and 2) dps not using aoe spells in a crowd control pull.

Currently, nearly all tanks have abilities as part of their normal rotation that do aoe damage:
– Warriors: Thunderclap is needed for a key tanking debuff and in Wrath will create a consecrate like zone of damage. Shockwave is another key tanking tool but at least is a cone and so can be aimed away from controlled creatures.

– Paladins: Consecrate and Hammer of the Righteous are part of the normal rotation. Could possibly be dropped and the developers do seem to have addressed this with the baseline introduction of Crusader Strike.

– Druids: Druids have one of the strongest single target rotations. They currently routinely glyph Maul which creates a cleave but with the current change to inscription this should be changeable and the single target normal rotation can be kept up on up to about three mobs easily enough. So although it will be a little fiddly they should be ok in this world.

– Death Knights: in serious trouble. As with warriors, they have a key debuff tied to an aoe ability (in a wider diameter). Heart Strike is absolutely key to one target threat and is a cleave that hits three mobs. Getting Diseases up on more than one mob requires pestilence and this is another 360 degree aoe. Frankly, I think the current implementation has Death Knights in the worst position by far for a crowd control pull. The only good thing is that death grip allows us to pull casters to us and so set up a pull more easily than for other tanks.

The result is that tanks are going to find it harder than ever to avoid breaking crowd control while at the same time they find it easier to have good aggro on multiple mobs. Being unable to survive is therefore going to be the only reason to use crowd control.

Prediction Number 2 – tanks will routinely die because they don’t use crowd control unless they really have to. Wipes will be very common in Cataclysm. People will either want to shout at tanks for failing but not dare due to increased tank shortage or shout at them and drive tanks to stop tanking.

Why groups won’t use crowd control unless they have to

Although individual good dps will probably enjoy fights where they get to show off their skill, the majority of groups will still want quick runs and easy badges. Every time a tank stops for a few seconds to try and mark a kill order and decide what to control, there will be shouts of “go go go” or “ffs pull plx”.

Prediction Number 3 – The result will be wipes galore as tanks give up and charge into certain death. The second time the tank will ignore the shouts and mark up. The idiots from LFG will ignore it and there will be another wipe. The third time there will be a new tank as the original has left in disgust and the process will start over.


Tanks tend to control the pace and style of an instance run. Not in every group but in general they go first, they do the marking and they are the ones who decide when to pull (unless people decided to ninja pull). As such, they are the ones that Blizzard needs to convince that crowd control is the way to go.

It is generally better to give a carrot than a stick. Currently, Blizzard is giving carrots to incentivise tanks to want to aoe tank (extra aoe abilities and mechanics that require it) and using sticks to convince them not to (telling us that we won’t be able to survive aoe pulls). The result will be people wanting to aoe, dying a lot and then getting frustrated because they cannot.

Worse, towards the end of the expansion there will be a huge gear threshold for beginning to tank as the few tanks that can survive the pulls will be the ones who everyone wants so they can get their daily dungeon runs done quicker. So even those who decide to try tanking will find that they are unable to do so without getting shouted at for not being geared enough. Hmm, that is going to be fun isn’t it?

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