Home > Eldoric's Blog, Player Blogs > Tank Battles: Balance and Flavor

Tank Battles: Balance and Flavor

I believe that tanks are very unique players in the World of Warcraft as they feel a kinship with others that have chosen the same primary role as they have.  We band together in a way that I don’t normally see among the damage dealers or healers.  This is not to say that these roles don’t have a feeling of camaraderie.  They can and do.  Tanks just have a very present sense of it.  To dissolve it down to a base level: Tanks are like brothers and sisters.  We are family whether we are Horde or Alliance, Druid or Paladin, Warrior or Death Knight.  Being siblings can be a wonderful thing but it is important to remember siblings do fight, and when they do, it is normally vicious.

“He is on my side!”

“She took that from me!”

“He got that! Why can’t I have it?!”

“YOU LIKE HER MORE  THAN ME!!!”

The above lines can be applied to children or to tanks.  On the dangerous grounds of the Official Tanking Forums you hear a lot of these same statements directed from one tank to another similar to what you see above.  There are three factors that go into why tank classes argue: Balance, QQ, and Flavor (you see what I did there, these things are in the title).  Each one intertwines the other to create most of the issues that occur between tanking classes.   Looking at them can sometimes help people cut through the bickering and see what is really going on.

Balance:

This is the most important word there is when it comes to the four tanks in WoW.  An imbalance can be magnified in the game environment.  Unfortunately, sometimes players magnify them way beyond their actual impact.  The basic argument players make with balance is that change or effect X will cause other tank Y to be so good as to cause me, tank A, to not be used for encounters.  An example of this was would be: Death Knights cool-downs make them so powerful against magic damage that no raid leader would want to bring another.  The issue of balance can be a difficult one because, like I said above,  an imbalance can have a big effect but not every imbalance does, and the players tend to make it far larger than it is .  I will say this on the issue of balance, a topic I visit often: Blizzard wants to achieve balance.  They really do.  Now, how they do that can be an issue for debate.  Some people believe that they are not addressing an issue if they don’t say something about it, or that a design decision that creates imbalance will not be reverted.  Worrying about either of the two points is not very sensible.  Blizzard has tools that we don’t, they can monitor things we cant and they like to gather as much data for testing before making a change.  Balance will happen, calm down.

Flavor:

Flavor is the antithesis of what many consider homogenizing of tanking classes.  Warriors have mobility: Flavor.  Death Knights use self-healing to augment lower passive mitigation: Flavor.  Druids use offense as a means to gain defense: Flavor.  Coke tastes better than Pepsi: Flavor……..well no that is opinion but at least it is the right one.  Flavor is important because if gives a sense of distinction among the tanking classes.  Players don’t want to feel like everyone else tanks exactly the same as they do but with different animations. Flavor is a great thing.

The problem with flavor is that it can be used as a means to defend imbalance.  The flavor of a class should never give them a distinct advantage over the other classes in the MAJORITY of content.  Meaning: The warriors mobility may help a lot of fights were quick movement is important.  The critical portion is that it is situational at best.  It is not flavor if all the tanks have a spell interrupt and paladins do not.  That is why the got one.  Not having an interrupt made them worse on fights, which given the nature of a lot of fights in Cata caused them to be less desirable as tanks.  This was corrected.  Balance must always trump flavor.  It may be a very warrior type thing that they can disarm opponents but disarming a boss and reducing his damage by 80% is not fair or balanced if none of the other tanks can do it.  Hence, raid bosses (in the majority of cases where it actually would matter) cannot be disarmed.  It can be a tricky thing to figure flavor vs balance, but, as a general rule, it can flavor if it is different then the other tanks but does not imbalance them against the majority of content.

The important point I am trying to make is that having a strong ability is great and having a weak one is disappointing.  When a strong one is nerfed, it can be disappointing especially if it is unique to your class.  The critical thing to remember is that the health of the overall game is what is most important to Blizzard (and players ultimately).  Blizzard is committed to having the tanks flavorful and distinct.  What they are not committed to his having flavor at the expense of balance.

I will always believe that tanks are unique and special players in the World of Warcaft.  I love how we have a sense of kinship that extends beyond race and faction limitation that exist in the game.  With that in mind, we should extend understanding to all members of the tanking community regardless of nerfs/buffs.  Playing the blame game or endlessly QQing is not the way to foster community.

That is all.  Until next time, this is Eldoric, The Guardian Tank, and remember: it doesn’t matter what class the other guy is when helping you take hits to the face.  All that matters is he or she a tank too.

-Edloric

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