Once again I spent part of an idle night running a few heroics, nothing major but kindof random instances that provide the most badges. However for several of these we had no healer, instead we had a group setup with a tank, a single pure dps and three hybrids. Thankfully we managed to convince one of the Druids to heal as a Boomkin (and there is a significant gear overlap so its not as stupid as asking a Protection Paladin to heal). We lost a few people on the run due to stupid mistakes like standing in AoE (though with a specced healer people typically move less so losing people isn't rare here), and bosses were based more on dps throughput and damage prevention (we hit an enrage on the third boss of Ahnkahet, as people moved out of the AoE though the off-healer kept me up easily). Strangely this worries me.

I won't say that I am badly geared, doing so would be a lie since I have pretty much the best in slot gear pre-raid (thats another topic), however the aim of the Heroics in WotLK seems to have changed. In TBC the progression was typically:

Dungeon -> Heroic -> Early Raid -> Hard Heroics -> Late Raid

This seemed to work admirably, however in WotLK it seems that every level 80 immediately runs heroics, whether this is due to the experience or simply the fact that we are used to it (level 70 for a long time, so setting things to "normal" is unusual). This spoilt a lot of the game for me, I would have liked to have been forced through the level 80 normal dungeons to reach a gear stage to tank the heroics, and to see a gradual progression through them, perhaps an order such as:

Nexus (5)
Utgarde Keep (3)
Drak'theron Keep (4)
The Oculus (4)
Azjol Nerub (3)
Gun Drak (5)
Ahnkahet, the Old Kingdom (5)
Halls of Stone (4)
Halls of Lightning (3)
Utgarde Pinnacle (4)
Violet Hold (3)

I remember Heroic Black Morass in pre-T4 gear, and being honest it was hard, especially to AoE tank, you typically took along a DPS to deal with the adds. Instead Violet hold presents no major difficulties. I think perhaps the real problem is finding the trick on each boss that makes it easy, and every boss has a trick now. There are very few spank or be spanked fights, the Oculus for example can have all of its bosses 2 manned. Without the feeling of working up, and the rate at which badges can now be acquired there seems to be major problems for Blizzard.

The first problem is the division of 10 man and 25 man badges, this seems like an ok plan at first, until you realise that later content will be based from the differences in gear levels (1-2 tiers difference between 10 and 25 man versions), and the difficulty in acquiring gear. I left a raiding guild recently because I had a disagreement with the officers over loot and the distribution based on favouritism principle (the solution of "X has done a lot for the guild" is not in my mind a valid loot principle in anyway since you need 10 or 25 people there to make a raid set at the right gear / experience level). Now instead of having a gear progression my gear path stops 2 weeks into the game, thats it, no more. At the rate that badges can be acquired (~43 Heroics, +2 daily + 10 mans if you do them) you are looking at being able to acquire all of the heroic badge gear for a spec inside a week, in close to T6 gear the fastest Shattered Halls Heroic runs I heard off / did sat around 22 minutes, in contrast the fastest 5 badge Heroic in WotLK being Gundrak can be done in under 13 minutes in pre-raid gear.

By dividing the loot, rather than simply placing a "rate multiplier" on badges we see that there is no progression path, without going to 10 man raids, or 25 man there is no progression even through crafted gear. By unifying the looting system and bringing more tier gear into the badge path (or equivalent gear like the 2.3/2.4 badge gear) you would see more of a progression path. Simply place a large multilier on the 25 man type badge gear to allow people to move towards a goal (and yes this means non-raiders get raid gear, but frankly who cares, its a step along the path, and its only for a single set per spec rather than all the boss specific drops). Taking a tanking example we have:

Heroic Medal of Valor - 84 dodge, use grants 3xx dodge rating for 20s (40 badges)

This is being compared to Moroes Lucky pocket watch still, and classed as not as good equivalently (as the benefit is spread over 20s rather than 10 it doesn't alter the stat as much making it less of an oh sht button). To give raiders the equivalent we might see:

Third War Valor Medal - 84 dodge, use grans 700 dodge rating for 10s (drops from 25 man raid boss)

To the average player, the latter is likely a downgrade for running heroics or enjoying the game because in a single healer situation you cannot ensure that the 10s the latter buys you will make you survive, to a raider 10s is a lifetime (thats 4 Holy Lights from a Paladin, hitting for 6k+ each easily). The difference is now that you can offer progression to people, and survive the gearing process. As with TBC I can forsee a point in the future where we reach a stage with guilds in T9 content starving due to the lack of well geared T8 content raiders as happened to BT/MH guilds from the attunements to SSC and TK, by limiting the personal gear progression (through tenacity, skill or luck) we artificially limit the progression of others.

Applying the Arena equivalent ratings to gear won't work easily, in fact its probably silly. What they can do though is add crafted gear that requires an achievement to use (attunement's in disguise), or indeed rep / tokens to work, this can be complimented by stupidly large badge counts to get the top items, a raider might get a T9 chest for 15 kills of a boss (barring them actually dropping the gear), a heroic runner might need 100 heroics to get it (~350 badges for the chest). Again the rate of these can be controlled, such that items are not available for purchase until the instance is well cleared, in effect a reverse gate process on Sunwell. This means your top end guilds cannot simply badge gear people to abuse an instance, they must clear it 100 times or whatever on the server (across multiple guilds) to open up the war effort.

Flowing down gear isn't bad, but limiting the progression path for non-raiders 2 weeks into the game is not a good way to go, I might be a hardcore casual player right now, but it doesn't mean that other's won't hit the same issue in time. It has been said before, the rate of progress doesn't matter as long as you can see the path and go along it, arena ratings on gear restricted people heavily as to what they could get, it stopped the path, limiting gear and stopping full epic "badge" players is just as bad and will likely come up for most people at some point.

It would feel very elegant to get rid of healing plate. But it is a pretty major change and one you aren't likely to see anytime soon.

The logical choice is to make Holy (and all paladin healing really) scale off of AP somehow. But then you also need to solve the mana pool and regen problems because melee dps rings don't have int or mp5 on them.

It's not an impossible problem to solve, but it is a big one. Changing melee druids to share a lot of gear with rogues has been tricky and something we are still working on.

I have the feeling that Ghostcrawler has this wrong, its not such a hard task in reality, we need to consider first that melee gear provides:

  • Strength
  • Stamina
  • Hit
  • Crit
  • Expertise

Now a caster need:

Int -> or rather a caster needs mana to cast, and the associated crit
Mana Regen -> to enable longer fights
Spell Power -> to scale heals
Crit -> to make heals big

My first suggestion would be the notion that Spell power isn't necessary, if it is necessary then simply moving the Protection talent, Guarded by Light, to low end Protection would solve the issues, then all Paladins have a base SP ~= 1/3rd of their stamina, this is a fairly known value for all gear.

In terms of a large mana pool, this can be solved with lower spell costs, or more effective heals, Illumination could provide 30% of spell cost back on cast (so a spell costs 70% of what it would for Prot/Ret, but you still need the mana to cast it in the first place), with a 100%/150% return on crit. Paladins then become independent of the idea of mana regeneration and become an active class, there is no real passive system for them.

Hit rating can be converted to crit, or indeed into a more effective heal, perhaps something along the lines of:

Precise Heals:
Hit rating increases your Holy Spell Power by {y}

Expertise is likely the most interesting point, imagine if instead of being a way to reduce the boss parry/ dodge it made some kind of HoT effect, or reduced casting times like haste.

Expertise lowers the cast time of your Holy Light and Flash of light spells by {y}s


Expertise grants your Holy Light spell a chance to apply a HoT for 100% of healing for 8s, at {y}%/expertise (since the soft cap is around 24, hard cap around 60 I would suggest 1/1.5% per point, so a fully capped [nearly impossible] healer would hit for 90% chance, a softcapped for 36%.)

Finally, we make heals scale from AP and SP (1:2 ratio or so?), and give Holy a talent like Ret has converting Str to SP.

We have the basis of a working system, Paladins now rely on melee stats, and as a consequence we can remove SP gear. What differentiates Retribution and Holy Paladins is then the mana regen and efficiency (Holy is at least 42% more efficient than Ret) and the variety and options of heals compared to DPS options.

Its not a lack of possibility for Paladins to become a melee healing class, it is the act of trying to make it complex, the mechanics are already in place to make mana a non-issue, or to make it work differently to other healers, all it needs is the will and vision of a designer.

We have already announced or suggested all of these changes would be forthcoming in the next minor content patch. I thought I would list them all in one place for ease of use.
Divine Shield: Penalty changed so that all damage done is reduced by 50% instead of a attack speed penalty.

1) Divine Protection no longer causes an attack penalty. Divine Shield's penalty was changed to 50% less damage done by the paladin.

2) Sacred Duty: This Protection talent no longer affects the attack penalty of Divine Shield and Divine Protection, but grants additional bonus Stamina.

3) Avenging Wrath, Divine Shield, Divine Protection, and Hand of Protection have a shared, 30-second cooldown. The Forbearance effect is no longer triggered by Avenging Wrath.

4) Judgement of Wisdom now returns a percentage of base mana instead of a percentage of max mana.

5) All mana drain effects now return a percentage of max enemy mana (making mana drains less punishing to paladins and other characters without large mana pools.)

6) Judgements of the Pure: This Holy talent now increases the damage done by Seals and Judgements.

7) All paladins receive a single-target taunt (name TBD) as a base ability.

* Hand of Protection will be castable on other players during the cooldown period -- just not on yourself (to prevent chain immunity)
* New Paladin taunt is called Hand of Judgement: 30 yard range, 8 second cooldown, and does a small amount of Holy damage as well
* The amount of base mana that Judgement of Wisdom returns is scaled to not be a nerf to "most" Holy Paladins. This means this change is likely a massive buff to Protection and Retribution mana return (as well as other low-mana classes such as Hunters and Enhancement Shaman).

Still not really happy with the 30s lockout on these, simply having it do a /cancelaura would have been much better in my mind (so they are truly mutually exclusive), and dropping forbearance to 1 minute, but nice changes.

The Hand of Judgement is awesome (if badly named), a ranged pull / tagging spell for Ret and Holy (though Holy doesn't really need it now), a taunt that works properly for Prot, and a reasonable range. Many people will say "why do we need this", and the answer is the edge case bosses and fights where "3 random mobs from target" isn't acceptable.

Mana returns and drains as a percentage is great, while I can see people saying "why doesn't fireball do x% damage then", the difference in health stacking is way smaller than mana stacking (and all classes can do it) due to the odd combination of Mana and no Int on some classes. Hopefully the next step is to give us a truly limitless resource system for Retribution and balance their damage around all cooldowns being filled (such that utility and healing drop dps rather than being in addition).

It is not a lot of love, but it is some much needed love, Paladins always seem to be that odd class with three specs at odds with each other, maybe soon we will see a Str -> Int / Spellpower for Holy, and we can finally see the class coming closer together as an in the Melee X.

Ok, maybe not yet, since I haven't hit Naxx on live yet, nor have I done the Old Kingdom and Halls of Stone (wtb group pst), however the other 10 Heroics have just flown by, I have chalked up over 100 heroic badges already, the game simply isn't a challenge.

I think a lot of this is the gear level, the difference between Epic T5/6 gear (ILevel 160ish) and the gear we are supposed to run heroics in (ILevel 187 blues) is too low, instead of them being a challenge as they were to the 10,000 health crittable tank, we are well outside the easily killable range and instead in the "if we don't do anything silly" range.

I think this was a major flaw in Blizzards plan, the very fact that most level 80s consider the correct step to be ding, go heroic is the wrong attitude, we used to have to work to get there (D3 set at the minimum really for tanks), instead now the gear is good enough.

Fixing this one was easy for them though, have the game another tier higher, and set the Heroics at the iLevel 213 state, with Naxx at 226 and 239, that would make them able to assume much more gear (and no stupid paladins aoe tanking the whole place) allowing heroics to be harder. While we don't want to see MGT again (bring 2 CC on third boss or don't pass go), we would love to see some "omg, I would like some cc now please" moments.

The Nexus doesn't change a lot from its non heroic version.

Best route through it seems to be to head left, taking the elite, and again left into the small area with frozen troops and the first boss. From there head through and across the two platforms, jumping into the arcane adds (1 big + wraiths) allows you to skip one pull for a faster run, then up onto the 2nd boss area, coming back jump down and head towards the group of dragonkin attacking a portal to the north, this allows you to skip trash. Once inside, you will need to clear the whole pretty white area, you can skip the giant trees by hugging the planters, none are required kills, however can be killed without a healer by a tank + 3 dps (120,000 health), the patrols are around 63,000 health for the casters, the centaurs heal and cast tranquility (interrupt this), the treekin inflict a debuff that is mostly ignorable, attempt to stun the centaurs.

Pulls with a 20,000 health, 20,000 armour tank (520 defense at the time) could be done 3 at a time easily, with the major worry being the packs with the dogs (the pack has an ice trap). The fourth could likely be attempted however I didn't try it. None of the pulls have LoS requirements and are fully ccable (poly, sap, repentence, hex, traps).

Our setup was:
Paladin Tank: 20k health, 20k armour, 520 defense, crushable by 10%
Paladin Healer: ?
Rogue: ~830 dps
Mage: ~ 920 dps
Hunter: ~ 1200dps
Total party dps over the instance was 4310, which is probably quite low.


Commander Komurug / Commander X (Varies by Alliance / Horde)
- Charges every 45s-60s ish, hits for around 8k on plate (Paladin Healer), 8-25 yard range
- Whirwind every 60s ish, hits for around 11k on 20,000 armour (one shots anyone not in plate basically), 20k to a leather rogue basically
- 3-5.5k normal hits on 20,000 armour
- Fears every 60s or so
- 330,000 health roughly
- Comes with 2 priest healers, around 63,000 health, no serious damage

Pull the boss himself, and take him back to the entrance where you entered the room (getting out of the whirlwind is near impossible, so just pop trinkets or consumables as needed to get through it). One of the Priests should be controlled, and the other killed (both if you can manage it, or if you can control both). The fight then is very simple. Melee need to move out from the whirlwind, and be outside charge range (or inside) allowing a plate wearer to take it or no one if you are sufficiently out. The fear can overlap with the whirlwind / charge cooldowns, and this is the most dangerous part as it moves the danger area, your healer and suchlike need to remember to move out of the whirlwind area, and ensure that a plate equivalent class can take the charge.

Grand Magus Telestra
- Fireball / Frostbolt / Arcane Blast type attacks, 3-4k damage, doesn't always target highest aggro
- Fireblast, 8yard AoE centered on target, always the highest aggro
- Time stop - short duration incapacity - seems unresistable
- Frost Nova - short duration movement stop - resistable
- Freeze - Short duration CC, breaks on damage - resistable
- uses the same annoying move + throw technique, threat can be built during this, falling damage and repositioning required
- 300,000 ish health, adds have about 120,000

Splits into 3 separate forms twice during the fight, once before 50% and once after.
- Frost form throws frostbolts / blizzard
- Arcance form arcane blasts
- Fire form throws Fireballs / fireblasts
- Time stop continues while this phase is up
- Freeze can occur while this form is up

Pull the boss herself, and tank it like the Demon form of Leotheras the blind, stand at maximum range with the melee spread behind her at maximum range to ensure the fireblast hits only the tank. DPS down till she splits. Best plan is to control (vulnerable to traps, polymorph, and can be stunlocked) as many as possible, typically control the frost add as she restricts movement, the first add seems to do the most damage. You do not need to tank all 3, tank 2 and allow the DPS to take a third (or 1 and 1 if you have a control) to reduce the insta-gib capability. Once she returns to a single form DPS her as normal, watching position and repeat the split forms technique, there is apparently some use of two random abilities (her column in the middle gains two of the aspects), however I have not seen this affect the fight.

- 300,000 ish health
- Arcane damage + melee (continual 300-3k arcane damage + 3000 ish melee on 20,000 armour)
- Spawns portals throughout fights
- Becomes invulnerable and spawns a portal (or 2), the portal must be killed before he becomes killable again.

Tactic is identical to that of the normal version, stand and dps, zerging him until he becomes invulnerable and spawns a portal, at all times you must DPS down the portals as the damage becomes hard to heal through. The fight should not be any challenge if you have the DPS to down portals (25,000 health roughly), it is important to get as much dps on the portals as they spawn, if the boss is invulnerable even the tank should dps the portals, when the boss is up move close to a portal to allow Hammer of the Righteous and other multi-target effects to affect both.

Ormorok the Tree-Shaper
- 350,000 ish health
- Minor tank damage (3-4k on 20,000 armour)
- 4 spines causing initial minor damage when they popup and falling damage, these do not spawn at 90 degree intervals, and can be 4 on one side, or perfectly spread, you need to move
- Enrage at 20% give or take, deals increased damage

As with normal, the plan is to zerg the boss taking account of movement to avoid the spines. When he enrages pop the shieldwall equivalent to give the healer some breathing room and continue to DPS. This boss is no harder on heroic other than the spines not being as predictable.

- 400,000 ish health
- Crystaline Breath - frost damage - resistable
- Crystalise - freezes whole party in place - resistable
- Hits for 3,000 ish on 20,000 armour
- Debuff if you don't move increasing frost damage.

This boss is interesting, the cystalise hitting the entire group is hard on a Paladin Healer (seems ideally suited to mass dispel). Plan is essentially as the normal version, position the group around, and jump as often as possible (or movement of any kind), when the crystalise hits, sacred shield (or damage reduction ability) yourself, and begin to assist in dispelling these, they can resist your cleanse / dispel. It is far more important to remove the debuff than to continue to build threat. Other than that, minor damage to the raid continuously, and fairly major tank damage throughout the fight.

Best technique is to simply keep jumping, you don't lose anything by doing so, and failure to do so indicates you are frozen (saves you watching timers and suchlike if you are new here), cleanse yourself, and work down the DPS.

So a week in more or less, and level 79.55, or 9 bars to ding.

It has been an interesting trip so far, The boring tundra seems to provide exactly that, an interesting lead in for some, but seeming very bitty for me, I started in Howling Fjords and the story was much more tied together, an Alliance assault on the Viking strongholds with a struggling alliance keep in the north west. I did cheat a little, I hit 72 in instances (Utgarde Keep how I loathe thee) before really questing, so I was 74 when I hit Dragonblight, this area works nicely, a dragonic war going on in the middle of the area, with the Alliance outposts near Naxxramas, and the Wrathgate (and if you do no other quests, do Dragonblight, the cinematic for the Wrathgate is worthwhile, Bolvar Fordragon almost makes up for 4 years standing next to Onyxia and not realising it).

From here the choice is open, you can disappear into Zul'drak, or Sholonar, I went for Zul'drak and continued my quest against the Scourge and in a slightly confusing end worked for the Trolls and the Lich King, again lots of lore and interesting story lines, meeting the old crew from Zul'aman and some of the other troll gods (for anyone that ran ZA a lot, do Zul'drak, its worth it simply for the troll quests).

Finally I slipped into Icecrown at level 78, fighting from the Alliance vanguard into Scourgeholme, and the floating battleship where I have carried out sorties against the enemy, in short... fun.

Its a nice expansion so far, the gear seems far better than TBC did in that there is some very nice tanking gear, the drive for Heroics and 540 defence still seems like it will be a rather hard mistress however, I think perhaps I am going to go in crittable. That is however the main complaint.

While TBC uncrittable was an easy goal, with uncrushable as hard, the removal of crushing blows and the current difficulty with uncrittable (ok its not actually hard, just rep up the wyrmcrest, get a load of crafted gear and some nice quest drops, but it was a heck of a lot easier in TBC, staying uncrushable was hard, but getting uncrit wasn't a major issue for me). I think the badge gear at the start is a nice plan, however the instances have cut down on their loot lists because of this, it means that a lot of the items you want are now heroic grinds, rather than a piece of treasure you retrieved and reworked.

Anyway, hopefully 80 tonight, and my first steps towards 2/5 T7.

So I decided to buy the collectors edition, travelling 120 miles to get it, thankfully my trip has the added bonus of letting me say hi to my Brother, so I don't fall into the totally sad and nothing better to do category (and seriously, no Amazon, bad Amazon, gimme CE for more than 1 hr while I was at work to order!).

I did 16 dailies last night for the exp dump, and am ready to handin on the island, hearth to Shat for handins, then say goodbye to Outland and head into the Instances of Northrend. Its kindof strange, when TBC hit I didn't care, I was level 40ish and raiding was dull endgame stuff with nothing better, now I am thinking of powerlevelling to 80 and maybe pugging with others to see about a server first (unlikely, with a top 5 guild on my server, and several in the top couple of hundred).

So what does this mean:

Well firstly, my posting frequency should go up (since I am no longer just farming dull content and contemplating the joys of avoiding commenting on Blizzard Paladin Policy).

Secondly, well I don't know what the future will hold, but at the least me and my little frosty netherwhelp are going to be approaching it head on, and AoE tanking the future. Hopefully there will be people behind me to support it all.

Its a hard question to answer really, as a time sink nothing beats WoW, the ability to log on and do something is good, yet at the same time you spend so much time not doing anything, and that is what worries me. I have gone from casual to hardcore raider to soft and fluffy social member (not voluntarily), and yet I still wonder if raiding is worth the time and effort it takes to do so, four to five nights a week + ancillary activities.

Its the part of WoW I enjoy, working out tactics, working on gear and strategies and carrying them out, yet its also the part that requires the most time, and in a few years I wonder what the reward will be, when the servers go down and all we are left with is the memories of what we had, our purple clad avatars no longer meaningful even in the sense of what they have been.

I suppose its part of the pre-release mood, the down turn and nerfing of every boss, of seeing servers get so lethargic it isn't even funny, I think I am going to wait and see a bit, but I am not really sure what is going to happen.

The idea of a niche is a good one from some perspectives, you need to take a Rogue because you need the debuff poison he has, similarly you need to take those 2 priests for the Mind Control they offer for that boss fight. This structure however falls down when you consider that this means that there are effectively fewer raid slots available for other people, niches, while defining us, lead to a reduced ability to do what we want to do.

I can look at tanking, and see that there used to be niches, Bears were off-tanks, Paladins AoE tanks, and Warriors were the eternal main-tank, in short we were forced into roles due to mechanics, options and talents. This failed in many ways, those upstart Paladins were main-tanking bosses, and Druids were only held back by the crushing blow mechanic, tanks didn't want to be niched. It can be seen in reverse as well, while Warriors loved the almost guaranteed main-tank slot, they hated the effect in 5 and 10 man instances where they were sidelined by Paladins ability to AoE tank effortlessly (well not really, but Consecration basically made up for very bad DPS targeting / control). With the changes in WotLK we see the reverse, now we have Warriors worrying for the loss of their main-tank role due to a lack of "utility" despite holding the tanking utility crown still, we see Paladins happy to lose the AoE role (mostly) provided it brings their threat, mitigation and utility in line for tanking with Warriors.

There are problems with this of course, we see it in the Hybrid vs Pure debates, we see Rogues worrying that DPS warriors offer as much DPS, and those same DPS Warriors worrying that Retribution Paladin will be brought instead due to the ability to hearth, respec, change gear and then heal. People came to depend on their niches, 2 rogues in a raid was fairly common because it made good use of the melee group, 2 Rogues, a Warrior, an Enhancement Shaman and a crit-Bear. Similarly Shadow Priests were shoved in caster groups, you wanted the Shadow Priest, Elemental Shaman and 3 Warlock group twice because it did good dps. People grew used to being a niche role, and they came to like it.

Removing niches hurts this, suddenly our damage has to be similar across the board, making player skill important (though the distribution of skill needs to change really, the complexity of maintaining a proper Affliction rotation compared to a Frost rotation is much different for very little gain if any), our tanking needs to be based off of the common tank skill set (which is the tank equivalent of dps), and the utility in a raid assignable mostly through bringing a small number of classes to get the buffs. The one role we haven't really de-niched is in fact healers, leaving a deficit.

We see Discipline Priests and Paladins as single target healers, yet the other three healing specs are capable of near equal single target healing (otherwise 5 man instances would be an eternal pain for them), yet we do not see the reciprocal, a Paladin or Disc Priest cannot AoE heal to anywhere near the effectiveness of the other classes. This breakdown is bad, it means that there are two solutions, if the raid damage is like pre-BC we see Paladins and Disc Priests in too many numbers shunning the rest, or if we see TBC type raiding we see Shamans, and CoH Priests too often. Healers, like tanks, need to have their core skill-set homogenised a little, giving all healers access to single target, AoE, reactive and shielding skills, then making the differentiation in how effective and synergistic these are. I don't want to see the day when we say:

"Ok, Paladins on raid healing and Shamans tank healing"

That tends to go against the theory of the classes, Paladins and Disc Priests will and should be the strongest (by a margin of 20-50%?) single target healers, it should be their effortless role, similarly a CoH Priest and a Shaman should effortlessly heal raids and groups (by a margin of 20-50%?), leaving Druids as the main passive healer class, rolling lifeblooms, HoTs, reactive healing spells out onto the targets, suddenly classes are all capable, but have roles to fill. We can even differentiate within a role, a Paladin is a solid throughput healer, being able to throw large heals quickly and infinitely onto a single target, or throwing smaller splash heals around, the Discipline Priest meanwhile works more through shields, preventing damage, redirecting it and smoothing the incoming damage curve.

We can see CoH Priests having powerful, large scale heals (hitting 5-10 people at once for fast, reactive healing), Shamans offer more targeted healing through Chain Heal as a more powerful solution to raid damage.

The key to making it work though is synergy, two CoH Priests should be less effective in the general instance than a CoH Priest and a Shaman doing raid healing, that is to say that the damage rate / type / spread should favour stabilising people quickly (the benefit of CoH), while allowing a focused healing through Chain Heal. This can be achieved by moderating damage or through buff and debuff types, perhaps CoH lands a "drained" debuff on its targets, increasing healing done on them, but reducing further CoH healing, or perhaps doing other some other targeted buff. Smart heals are useful here, but should be less powerful than a targeted heal in terms of effectiveness.

I won't say we don't want niches, but what needs to happen is for niches to be complementary and to allow almost any combination of classes to complete a raid given sufficiently good players, its not to say that not stacking 1 Shaman, 1 Priest, 1 Paladin and 1 Druid isn't the best base combination, but that 2 Priests and 2 Paladins can still get through it if they make no mistakes, its the ZA 4 Timed Chest run, in T4 gear, sure its easy in T6, but if you make no mistakes, have the skill and 9 other people that don't make mistakes and have perfect pathing then it can be done.

Role on homogenisation, because it can allow us to be more differentiated without leaving us stuck in a niche with no where to go.

So its getting closer, its getting through the nerfs, watching the game close down fully and watching the Beta dry up like some kind of prune left out over night. Being honest I stopped wanting to post about Paladins for a while, we were in such as state of flux and changing rapidly that there was no real point in it, we cannot sway the developers we can only give feedback and pray their thoughts are the same as the community.

Unfortunately its not happened well for us, while many classes complain that they received less attention, that they didn't get a new mechanic and such like most of us got something to play with. My Warlock is actually reasonably happy, I specced into affliction for raiding with her, and achieving good dps above that of many others due to actually knowing the rotation and knowing when to clip myself. Of course I can't say Paladins came out badly either.

What did go wrong though was the whole approach, in each expansion we basically change a lot because the idea of the class is so fuzzy, in fact its positively non-existent. Our three roles do not mesh well, and we don't have the fluidity Druids once had (and they got kicked in the shapeshifting body part as well there), nor do we have the original planned cross overs.

Blizzard achieved something early in the Beta, Paladins were cross speccing.

Protection was protection, we can't realistically afford to move into another tree due to the obvious requirement on mitigation and threat not present in the baseline, Retribution similarly was speccing deep into their tree to acquire the needed skills to perform well, Holy however had options.

We saw the rise of the close in healer with infinite mana, the Baconboy, HoThealing and several others, suddenly Holy was a lot more interesting. Then it was nerfed, things were thrown around, infinite mana (throw the only class with no HoTs, AoE etc a bone please?) was a thing of the past, Retribution getting to throw the occasional heal was gone and the generic 51/x/y builds started to come back, something was gone. Being honest I hope it comes back, I want to see more of it, I want to see a fourth role in the game:

Combat Healer
Group Support

Tanks will be tanks, the game design almost requires them, a single or multiple classes designed to focus damage for the raid, Healers are also required to assist the tank and handle damage flying around (otherwise raids have a very strict timer like RoS). By adding combat healers like Retribution Paladins and Enhancement Shamans we could see a new class role, suddenly you have maybe 3-4 healers per raid like tanks, and these close up healers who maintain "aura" like healing coupled with flash healing, in short damage -> healing in a small radius.

The last group I would love added is group support, meaning Elemental Shamans, Shadow Priests (or possibly Disc) and Boomkin, add raidwide and support healing to these classes to cover the raid wide damage.

Raid make up would be more interesting, suddenly you have tanks and melee supported by the close range burst healers, doing damage to feed healing. The group support healers sacrifice some dps to heal, but achieve optimal DPS by weaving in some healing (you could tie in a chain heal like effect, heals the target for X and then the target target for X healing or y damage, causes a stacking bonus to damage spell q).

Finally your healing classes are responsible for the bursts in damage to the raid, to the tanks, make healing slightly more restrictive (Paladins / Shamans are Tank / small group healers, Priests / Druids larger group healers, but with some cross over) and allow them to interact more with the targets, shields to buy breathing room, reactive heals, damage based heals.

We won't ever see the game change completely, but we did see the start of something like this, we saw change and we liked it, healers that DPS'd, DPS that could spot heal and truly fluid hybrids. We got to use the base abilities of our class and found a reason to cross talent spec, as GC said the 51 point talents aren't more powerful than any other otherwise we would automatically take them, but they did move things down the tree to stop cross-talent builds...

Put talents in positions to let people use them, 11 point talents are open to all, 21, 31 and 41 should be open to some builds and the 51 point a serious contender, let us choose to be a sheatheadin or a baconboy, but either way let us make a choice.

We cleared BT in one night, and we wiped ... once ... on Illidan.

The fight went down so fast, he hit the demon phase with me at 90% or so mana in my healing gear (I went healing again, I figured staying DPS I only add 800 or so, and if I put on Righteous fury for the damage reduction I can pull off the other tanks which would be bad), and it went really well, then the fire tank died (100% -> 0% in less time than I can drop a flash of light), no idea why, and it kindof just fell apart with the flame getting picked up and leaving a trail of dead people. Despite the nerfs, the main principle of raiding is still "don't stand in the fire"*.

Its really odd seeing us wipe here, no one was treating this seriously, it was more like a Karazhan run than a BT run, and so odd, the attitude of it being too easy in itself lead to the near wipe because people have no interest in maintaining discipline.

I wish it was still hard.

On a side note I nearly tanked mother, She is normally quite a horrible boss, however I kept track of the MTs threat for the duration of the fight, and an emergency hand of salvation on myself when I popped over the MT (not a good plan when healers aren't focus healing). Seemed a lot of fun to just try and nearly pull, testing yourself against another tank to see how far you can go.

* Note: Fire can be sludge, fire, raindrops or roses, but the running theme is that mobility is important and if you can't respond to environmental effects you will just die.


I think the link speaks for itself, blogging is dead (like Cobol), its old school (like Cobol), its way to professional (like Cobol), and its being surpassed by new upstart things (like Cobol) that don't fill the same niche (as Cobol), oh and we all blog for the same reasons.



Blogging isn't dead, in fact its different, while from a professional news point of view the amateur blogger might be dead as the professionals move into that sphere, however from the perspective of gaming, news, politics, relationships, and practically any other topic you can think of blogging isn't dead because people's opinions and thoughts count. I don't read a blog because it gives me the same information as Elitist Jerks, I read it because its interesting and I like the style. Blogging in most spheres isn't so much about the raw content its about the presentation and analysis of the content, the blogsphere gives a balanced view on things if you read widely enough because you see these different views, look at the Greedy Goblin on treating people with respect, he believes that (or I believe that he believes) people should be treated reasonably but that respect and suchlike are an earned concept, respecting someone simply because of their attributes is devaluing the respect, others disagree.

So lets not all disappear, lets actually get on with it and throw out the thoughts and analysis we want to do.

Blogging is dead, long live blogging.

I healed a Heroic. Ok it wasn't very heroic, and the tank died a few times (they didn't stun the Stewards that whirlwind melee + arcane bolts), I sucked at dealing with 4 different people taking damage, but overall I actually healed a Heroic.

The last time I healed anything serious it was normal Shattered Halls with a full badge Tankadin (read as: I went afk and occasionally pressed flash of light), lets say I haven't improved much, my raid healing (since I am prot) is basically always Flash of Light spam, and I can do it for hours. The question is how do you actually learn to heal at this stage, what are the tricks to Paladin healing, and can I be bothered to find them out, with the Heroic nerf its a good way to run along and grab badges since most of the instances don't really need a healer (I tanked UB in < 25 minutes, SP in < 15). Its getting silly, but with the dual spec nature of the game soon, my alt spec will likely be as a Healer (unless I can get DPS loot, but then people expect hybrids to heal).

So I shall continue to play the game, lets see how this works, a Protection Healer :P.

"You are not prepared"

He said it only once, and it rings true. I am not prepared, no addons updated in advance (yeah the EU Beta lagged that much :P), only a basic understanding of my new class, and yet I will log in tonight, and I will gather my party and venture forth to find what I need.

It is the start of a new expansion, the classes got flip turned upside down, and I'd like to take a minute, yeah just stop right there to tell you what I think is going to happen. At this stage people are still stuck, wondering what to do, how their class works and what it is going to be like, and to be honest I would expect not a lot to change, good players should be back to raiding tonight or tomorrow. It might not be a first kill on Kalecgos, or farming Illidan, however I think its a good time to go and explore some older content, to go kill Kael'thas and Lady Vashj, nice easy fights about coordination rather than simple raw DPS, TPS and HPS. It is a chance to get these things done and a chance to actually get to spend the time to do what you want and need to.

Yesterday, people were running around headlessly, and heedlessly, yet we successfully pugged Magtheridon (so far, that is an achievement on this realm, finding 5 clickers is actually hard), we earned about 5 people the Champion of the Naaru title for their first character and it felt good to actually be doing something. That is the key at this stage in the game, go and have fun, Sunwell will wait, Illidan isn't going anywhere, the next month is going to be continual updates and planning ready for the release, which will be a fast rush to 80 to raid again, this is the last chance to really do what we want to do just for fun, because the slowdown won't last long.

Larisa pointed out recently that she rolled a DPS Mage to specialise in DPS, and expected the hybrid classes to sacrifice the raw DPS power to be afforded their hybrid status. I would like to really talk about his from a different perspective though, firstly from a Raiding perspective, then from a Utility perspective, and finally from a Balance perspective. Whats more important though is probably to define what a hybrid is, and what the choices within a hybrid are.

What is a hybrid
A hybrid class is one in which two or more in game functions are performed by a member of the same class. That is to say that a hybrid class can move between the Healing, DPS and Tanking roles without a re-roll"
Ok, now that I have cleared up what I mean, lets identify the classes by their types:

Pure DPS Specs
Mages - a pure elemental DPS class, focusing on elemental damage in three schools with very high raid utility offered through Sheep, Decursing, Spell Interruption, Intellect buffing, and Resource Provision. Mages take on the role of "Spell Steal" Tank where needed, that is removing beneficial buffs from a target, this role is often the hardest to replace as the damage income assumes the stolen buff.

Warlocks - a pure elemental DPS class, focuses on very situational control through Banish and Enslave Demon, effective use of Pets to improve health or damage and raid-wide damage increases in specific elemental schools. Warlocks are a highly situational control class, and typically take on the role of Fire / Shadow ranged Tank where needed, all fights Warlocks have Tanked have been done by other Tanking classes as well.

Rogue - a pure melee DPS class, very high white-type damage with a focus on poisons and utility through sap, mortal strike effects, and damage evasion. Rogues bring very little raid utility at current, however bring a misdirection effect, and a threat wipe in Wrath.

Hunters - a ranged DPS class focusing on either self DPS improvement, or damage through an associated pet. Provides the fastest and most effective threat wipe, the ability to transfer threat at range, reliable control through trapping and an effective second damage source through their pet.

Healer - DPS Specs
Priests - Priests are a primary healing spec with an AoE healing tree and a single target healing tree (often used for PvP). Priests are the most flexible healers having abilities for all situations. Priest damage specs are very limited due to the raid utility provided through Mana and Health Regeneration linked to damage which would scale too well if damage was set at the level of a pure DPS. Priests provide the only reliable Undead crowd control, and use of mind control to control Humanoid type opponents.

Shamans - Shamans are a dual DPS single healer spec (melee and elemental [nature]). Their specs are very powerful due to baseline buffs brought by the class in Heroism/Bloodlust, Windfury, and Mana / Threat totems. Their healing spec is very sought after as it can provide the utility of the DPS specs while providing automated healing of the most needed targets in a short range. In Wrath Shamans will bring a Sheep like effect.

Tank - DPS Specs
Warriors - Warriors are the main tanking class of World of Warcraft having 100% utility in any situation, and encounters designed to make use of these. Their DPS spec suffers from a lack of threat reduction abilities however in a threat free environment provides the third highest DPS in the game. Warriors provide very high utility (having encounters designed for their abilities) and effective buffs in Thunderclap, Demoralising Shout, Commanding Shout. Warriors have AoE melee capability unlike rogues.

Death Knights - 3 Tanking trees, 3 DPS trees, this Hero class cannot realistically be confined to a single role in any tree. Death Knights I won't realistically cover as they are a new paradigm of hybrid, closest current equivalent would be a Druid.

Healer - DPS - Tank Specs
Paladins - The defined AoE tank in WoW, and the only single target healer. The spec suffers from a lack of baseline abilities and effectiveness gaining utility baseline however a specialisation deep within its tree. Paladins have no control abilities, however bring many utility buffs considered essential to raids.

Druids - Druids are the off-tank class of WoW, coupled with a fluid movement into a reasonable DPS spec and a good healing spec. They provide the 2nd decursing class in the game. Druids provide the main HoT healing class to the game, however the current implementation of Boomkin suffers from high threat and mana problems.

Fluidity of Transition
Of the Hybrids, Druids can move between Tanking/DPS and Healing/Ooming with relative ease, a Shadow Priest can perform as a clutch Healer when needed due to reasonable baseline abilities. Warriors cannot move into a DPS role as a Tank without a change of gear, Paladins cannot move into the other roles without a respec and regearing. So realistically, while hybrids offer flexibility it is primarily in the planning stage, while a truly heroic effort by a hybrid may provide the saving heal or blow the chances of them providing it out of gear or spec is small.

Hybrids essentially cannot move between two disparate roles in a raid without at least a gear change, and if not a full talent change. This is to say that it doesn't matter typically what role you could play, a Tank specced player in Tank gear is not going to be an effective Healer, they may perform reasonably in Healing gear, however they cannot switch in combat. There is a slightly higher overlap between Caster DPS / Healing, and Melee DPS / Tanking options, however typically the effectiveness of these transitions could be placed in the 50-75% effectiveness category, meaning ok as an emergency role, but you wouldn't want to rely on them.

Taking a real example, I fought Illidan recently, specced as protection however geared towards a 4/9-5/9 capable healing gear. Through the fight I kept up a near continuous flash of light spam on the tanks (I don't heal often enough or know the tanks and fight well enough to trust myself to cast cancel), and through a 15 minute fight I had no mana issues. So my ability to perform a 2nd role was useful however I would likely not have left the raid even without this, the fight isn't tight enough to replace me. If I had to be replaced though it would be for a near top dps (even with good retribution gear I cannot sustain 1500 dos) so my ability to fill any role only bought me a slot because the other raid members could keep it up without me. In a fight like Brutallus I would still be swapped out for the small dos gain a pure dps would bring.

The fight was interesting though, the hybrid classes took on one role, and stayed in it throughout, the pure dos classes however were required to provide utility (ranged tanking, parasite control etc) so what did the hybrid status buy any of us other than lower dps, it sure seems like the raid time utility is actually in the hands of the pure classes, since pre-wotlk no non pure has reliable indoor cc. So while it looks at first that we hold the cards, it's much more balanced than it first appears.

Hybrids in vanilla and TBC WoW offered typically less utility than their pure brethren, or so it's believed. Looking at the classes though we see that the pure DPS classes have higher DPS typically (and will in Wrath), but also the majority of active utility. Active utility is typically what counts in a raid, while its possible to provide buffs outside of the raid group, it is not possible to provide control or utility from outside. Hybrids often complain about the lack of control abilities (ever done MgT Heroic with Hybrids, the third fight is officially a nightmare).

Moving into Wrath we will see the DPS and utility grow closer together, that means that the pure DPS classes will still be on top of the DPS charts, however the hybrid classes will not be far behind. This is a vital change really, if its not, with the consolidation of raid buffs your raid starts to look like on of these (assuming TBC damage rankings stay the same):

3 Tanks
7 Healers
5 Buffs slots (minimal spanning set if you can't get it in your Tanks / Healers)
10 Warlocks

3 Tanks
7 Healers
5 Buffs slots (minimal spanning set if you can't get it in your Tanks / Healers)
10 Rogues

Yup, there is one token Mage (who could stand outside and buff really), no Hunters (Rogues can MD, all Tanks have some form of ranged pickup), etc. In short raids would be optimised for their DPS on progression kills. There are arguments against this, primarily towards gearing (you would be behind in the gearing curve if you stack all of a particular gear type, however assuming thats a non-issue higher DPS > other).

To allow for variation you really need to allow people to be similar enough that player skill has an effect, in TBC the best mages don't stand a chance against a good Warlock because of the DPS difference (10-30% in some cases), the innate difference is too high for player skill to make a difference in close cases. By making the pure classes 100%, and the hybrids 95% its a lot tighter and you get more balanced raids.

Hybrids and Raiding
Hybrids are currently essential to raiding, and will remain so, simply all the Healers are hybrids and so are your Tanks. What changes though typically is the raid composition over an instance, moving between 6 Healers and 10, 1 Tank and 4. By making hybrids effective in these roles, the raid you enter with can be the raid you leave with because of the ability of hybrids to fulfil moving roles. There are still more DPS spaces in a raid than any other role, and the majority of control, threat management and highest damage will still lie with the pure classes, you won't lose the pure DPS slots to a hybrid, what you will lose is the set of slots that would be in danger of being kicked from the raid to let in another Healer.

Hybrids and Utility
They don't have it.

Hybrids will get more in Wrath, however at current raid time utility is essentially held by the pure classes, no hybrid Sheeps (Shackle is a rarely used ability, and like Banish very situational), no hybrid can Misdirect, or provide the reliable threat wipes of a Hunter, Mage or Rogue. Simply the utility most people look at, that of changing your role, or buffing isn't what makes or breaks a raid, its what you can do inside the raid that counts. While its nice to say "but you can bring salvation", a level 30 buff bot sitting outside can do the same role.

Hybrids and Balance
There are issues with giving hybrids good dps, good roles, good everything, but typically its a matter of flavour. What we need to make sure is that classes are taken and that trees are viable. How often have you seen a Retribution Paladin taken to a raid as a first choice DPS on a fight other than Brutallus? The answer is likely never (or the Paladin gave favours to someone), their DPS isn't competitive, their raid utility can be replaced by non-DPS Paladins, they have nothing to really sell themselves to make up that 400+ DPS difference between themselves and the Warlock you could have brought.

Looking purely at damage as the indicator of worth is pointless, into the future we are likely to see more fights where its not just a DPS race, but a control, Healing, and even survival fight combined, we can't just rely on being really high on damage to win, we need to make use of all the abilities on our toolbars, and yes pure classes still have a lot of unique functionality.

Taking this leads to my next point, if hybrids can't do their roles, hybrids have been lied to.

Hybrids and Being Lied Too
Lets face it, most Paladins level to 60, maybe 70 as Retribution (you can get into Protection at 40 for Holy shield, or go the painful route as Holy, but Ret/Ret->Prot are the fastest routes). You do good damage, you Tank as DPS (no one builds much threat at those levels), you perform like it says on the box, three talent trees, 1 way of DPSing, 1 Tanking and 1 Healing, and you chose to DPS. You turned down the variety of the Warlock, the stylistic choice of DoTs and drain Tanking, the power of the Felguard and pets, and the raw destructive crits, you turned down the bond with your newly trained Pet, the infinite trapping cycle and the buffs of the Hunter, you have that 1 way to DPS.

Then your reached the max level, your gear was good, but only in your DPS tree, you did competitive damage and learned your class well... and then your went to Karazhan, and the pure classes out DPS'd you, the utility you brought was non-existent beyond the buffs, and people told you to go Holy or stop raiding. Yes you could become a Healer, but you wanted to be a DPS, you wanted to have a big two handed sword, to hit stuff with Holy Fury and be the scourge of the Undead... but by having access to a Healing tree you can't do the DPS of a DPS class, and your Healing is restricted to a single target less your DPS spec take it...

Hybrids have to be viable in all their roles, and they need the talents to encourage them to stay in a single tree for the most part, in Wrath we will likely see many different builds, but all viable or focusing on a strange combination. We will see many complaints from people about a DPS spec Healing, but that is what is needed, WoW is a rather flat game at the moment, a single Healer change for a Boss requires you to remove another class or respec, if instead we had roles like the Warrior Priest of W:AoR we might see that need to force someone out reduced, instead of a raid being:

3 Tank classes
7 Healing classes
15 DPS classes

it might be:

3 Tank classes (harder to trade out, and lower representation than expected)
5 Healing classes
4 Replenishment / DPS Healer builds
13 DPS slots

So now we reduced the effective DPS roles, but there are more overall DPS slots because we can share the Healing and DPS roles more effectively.

QQ: You can Respec, I Reroll
This is really the only complaint that I can see that actually holds water, however by going a hybrid spec I lose the ability to change my type of DPS role, I can't get the difference in my Paladin that I can on my Warlock, I don't get the same feeling on my Priest that I do on my Mage, the classes all feel different and play differently, Hybrids lose some of the options that others take for granted by being a hybrid. It is really hard to explain it, my Warlock has three different DPS specs, my Paladin has one, of course my Warlock can't Tank or Heal, but then I didn't roll her to Tank or Heal, when I am on my Warlock people want me to DPS, and I do it well. When I am on my Paladin people expect me to be able and have the gear to fulfil other roles, and to be there to let them play what they want.

If nothing I have said has made sense, then for no other reason than the grief of "Are you Holy?", "No, Protection", "Wanna Heal Heroic Shattered Halls?", equality should be given. Being a pure class means people don't have the same expectations of you that a non-traditional hybrid role does.

So I finally did it, ok not as a Tank (I flashed my little heart out for 16minutes), 2 wipes and a kill (unlucky Tank death in phase 5, flame Tank death in phase 2) and he was down. The Betrayer, the Demon that even Arthas could not defeat, was slain.

However being honest the fight doesn't feel that epic, it has a large scale, but for the most part its trivial, and scarily so.

Phase 1: Hit tank with heals, run to mages
Phase 2: Tanks have to have graphics turned on and not step in the beams
Phase 3: Run to mages, remember to heal the tanks
Phase 4: Run to mages, remember to heal the tanks, minor raid wide damage
Phase 5: Run to mages, remember to heal the tanks, minor raid wide damage

I was expecting a lot more really, the raid damage on Naj'entus is far more threatening than the fire or parasites, the Tank damage from Archimonde is far higher, and the Demon phase tank was pretty laughable, correctly timed Flash of Lights after the bolt pretty much keep the Tank out of harms way, being honest I am not sure if I should attribute the Tank death to myself since I was nicely landing a 1.5-2k heal (Protection specced in Holy gear) after each bolt, so when I got the parasites and had to run the Tank was left in the danger zone, I don't know if real healers actually pay attention to that sort of thing, since I have no real options as Protection pretending to heal I just go for the small/big spam route.

I know its perhaps harsh to ask for more, and the raid had killed him before, its likely much more hectic in a progression kill, however I felt a lot more stressed in Supremus or Naj'entus (and closer to death as the Tank) than I did here, the full progression of Mother -> Illidan feels quite weak in reality, yes there is a degree of raid co-ordination, but it didn't feel very threatening, the Tank only ever risked death when the raid slacked, and the raid-wide threats were minimal, Gruul's shatter is more threatening than the Parasites or Flames because you cannot control where you land, its a snap decision. Having a truly controllable raid damage means its no longer threatening but rather point in the right direction and don't forget to move. The Demonic flames would have been far cooler to hit the raid for 70-80% of your health, actually putting you at risk rather than 1-3k and thinking "if he hits me 3 more times, I might flash heal myself".

Being the culmination of the game I was expecting more, from what I have heard of Kil'jaden he is far more what I expected, co-ordination, DPS, and risk at dying, our kill had 5 people dead, and at one point parasites in the raid, we didn't push more than 19.5k raid DPS on him, and that feels low, the step up in Sunwell on Brutallus is 29k, thats so much harder to achieve and so much more effective in forcing a highly coordinated raid group.

Looking at Black Temple as a whole, I can say that so much of it is simple tests, Mother Sharaz seems more like a loot boss than Bloodboil, so long I wondered why she was locked off rather than a gate-keeper like Curator, but it seems that she fills the same role that Void Reaver does, a Tiered loot boss as a reward for other content. Perhaps people like this, a hard ramp then a soft easy farm boss for loot, but I prefer to actually be rewarded for achievements, making her a real threat would have been awesome, something more like 3 tanking groups of 3 people with a MT and 2 people that get hit for %ages of their life total, so 3 solid groups to take the blows, and more raid involvement than remembering to run.

Well its cleared anyway, time to think about Wrath and the fight with Arthas.

Lore said a while ago that the easiest way to balance Tanking classes was to have us doing DPS as our off-role. Fundamentally this goes against the way the Paladin class is currently constructed, in that in TBC we were basically forced into off-healing due to the very low DPS we could put out in Tank gear. With the change to strength based Tanking then we have to reconsider this role. For the purposes of this comparison I am taking only Warriors and Paladins, Bears and Death Knights are far different beasts for a simple analysis since their combat resource is much more easily regained in combat and have mixed DPS/Tank trees while the Paladins and Warriors have deep pure Tanking trees.

The issue with this is the scalars on our threat modifiers:

Threat = (Holy Damage * 1.9 * 1.43) + (White Damamge * 1.43) = 2.7*Holy + 1.43*White
[the 1.43 on white I am not sure of]

Threat = Damamge * 1.45 * 1.43 = 2.07

Neglecting Paladin white damage because it is typically < 10% of our actual threat the threat comparison is thus:

Warrior Damage * 2.07 ~ = Paladin Damage * 2.7

Thus in an off-tanking situation Paladins should always Tank, because not doing so is detrimental to raid DPS. Following the maths through:

Paladin Damage = Warrior Damage * 2.07/2.7 ~= 0.76
Warrior Damage = Paladin Damage * 1.3

Thus to improve Paladins to the extent where we are not Tanking because not doing so is detrimental we need to consider deep protection (upping Retribution's damage by 30% would be a no-go) as adding this kind of talent, something akin to:
Guarded by the Light:
Self: Passive, Ranks:1,2,3
Increases your spell power by [10/20/30]% of your stamina. In addition increases your Holy Damage by [10/20/30]%

Thats a little overpowered though, considering that ups our threat by effectively 30%, thus it needs to be tied to a trigger. My thought would be Righteous Fury, thus giving us a toggle like Shadow Form or Bear Forms, becoming:
Guarded by the Light:
Self: Passive, Ranks:1,2,3
Increases your spell power by [10/20/30]% of your stamina. In addition increases your Holy Damage by [10/20/30]% while Righteous Fury is not active

Taking into account the Blizzard desire to allow Paladins to be healers, and the current secondary benefit of this talent not being beneficial to Protection Paladins (we don't really crit), I would suggest as a compromise (and completing the trigger effect on Righteous Fury):
Guarded by the Light:
Self: Passive, Ranks:1,2,3
Increases your spell power by [10/20/30]% of your stamina. Increases your healing done by Holy Light and Flash of Light by [6/12/18]||[10/20/30]% while Righteous Fury is active, increases your Holy Damage by [10/20/30]% while Righteous Fury is not active.

Thus you have the start of a true Hybrid with the functionality while not Tanking to actually fill a useful raid role. Detractors will state that this is a lot of bonus healing / damage, why take any other class. The answer is of course that yes its powerful, but the Healing aspect is realistically a niche role only useful on a few fights such as Naj'entus, in most other cases more DPS is always better than more Healing (because if you turn up with fewer Healers than are needed you won't succeed), thus giving a secondary option to those that want to take it or have the raid to support it without actually penalising the true off-spec role we need to fulfil for an easily balanced raid.

Sorry for the lack of updates recently, I have been having a hectic time at work, and WoW hasn't really been going well.

I plan to get back to posting this week, so please stay tuned.

Thank you.

Starting a raid can be difficult, if indeed it is possible you will often end up with a very strange class balance or some kind of horrible, unintended flaw in the group make up. Typically this can be solved over time by recruitment and refining your raiding group, however doing so will often force you to move people onto a rotation, or worse lose someone you think of as a friend. For this reason Blizzards aim of homogenizing the classes makes a lot of sense, bringing together the class you NEED to build a raid into a smaller set allows raid leaders more freedom to choose what they want and who they want for their raid.

The idea of restricting the raiding game to a small subset of defined classes never really made sense, that is to say that making an obvious choice in terms of overall dps, tanking ability or healing effectiveness reduces the choices you have in game as the encounters must be balanced against the broadest skillset and highest dps or healing groups to make fights challenging for groups. What is worse is that this distinction is often set based in your choices at the character creation screen long before you ever knew your choice would make you superb or subpar in a part of the game days or weeks away. These choices and differences can be aptly demonstrated in the tanking, dps, and healing trees.

Taking Warriors on the Reliquary of Souls fight, phase 2 requires the tank to reflect the Deaden onto the boss otherwise the damage taken is nearly unmanageable. Two tanking classes cannot do this meaning that to progress they need to overgear the content.

The third phase of this fight us much superior in terms of balance, the rage / mana burn coupled with the scaling damage favours a paladin tank, however in no way rules out a warrior or Druid tank.

The second phase is a clear example of a character screen choice ruling out and making life in the raiding game much harder, by contrast the second shows a limited bias but in no way penalizes your choice. This difference is key, a minor benefit in a niche area or fight is not unbalanced provided the niche is not every fight, however if the tools are not there for every class to at least be ok at something then a problem exists.

Damage per Second:
This can be seen easily between warlocks and mages, mages have lower dps overall and lower survivability, trading it for utility and dispelling. This difference in dps leaves mages struggling for raiding spots because of their dps and instead being brought primarily got their buffs and utility. Again fights need to be balanced around the dps that the DPS classes can bring rather than making a fight trivializable using higher dps classes.

Warlocks simply being the better choice due to synergy and mechanics destroys the balance here, while mages offer something warlocks can't beyond that minimal number of mages to do it warlocks are strictly better choices. This is different from the tank case in that there is a ceiling on your class, this your competition is much higher and the class balance which should be even is instead skewed.

This can likely be best seen with Paladin healers in the end game where restoration shamans and circle of healing priests are simply a better choice due to the large aoe damage and smart heals beating out longer casting efficient heals. Again there is no niche because every other class can fulfil the main tank healer role, however the fundamental tank damage throughput limit means fight mechanics must use raid wide damage, where the smart and aoe heals become a better choice.

This is not a matter where skill can make up but rather a set of game mechanics that penalises a class for becoming a specialist in a role. Rather than becoming the best choice for that role they lose all roles because they cannot fulfil a different specialized role.

So my point is:
Moving away from these situations is a good thing, it moves towards the idea that a raid is composed of 10 or 25 people, broken down into tanks, healers, dps, and niche roles as opposed to a firm requirement for non-niche (such as a Mage tank on high king maulgar) class roles such as a shadow priest purely for their mana and health regeneration. At first glance this reduced the chances of a hybrid class getting raid slots and puts everyones chances down, however that is far from the truth.

By becoming competitive in a generic type role (tank, dps, healer) and providing a group benefit, specialists can shine in their niche roles but never worry that their choice at character creation was one which will penalize them. Spwcialisation has benefits but it should never stop you progressing or limit the slots available to you on an arbitrary basis.

--- a mobile post, forgive the formatting and spelling as the auto correct is painful.

Groups of Words made a very good point, Blizzard (or rather Ghostcrawler) has been talking to the Beta forums a lot, making posts at silly hours of the nights, responding to criticism and worries in each class (well strangely lacking in the Paladin forums). Its a breath of fresh air, but what does it really mean?

Simply that the best way to design something is with feedback.

Blizzard makes a point of releasing games when they are ready rather than based on commercial pressures (though one wonders if this is true right now) which allows them to try and get it right. The problem is that the internal testing staff at blizzard is small, at least compared to the potential number of testers out there in WoW. By opening up the testing early and getting people that don't mind testing buggy games they achieve a lot more testing on content, design, and strange oddities they never expected (Druids using an old tier set to get free instant tranquilites?).

So then opening up the testing seems like a good plan, however it has a flaw in that none of the beta testers have seen a vision statement for each class or talent tree and instead we get limited snippits from dev from time to time. By hiding (or rather not revealing) the overall plan Blizzard minimises the chance that we can give useful and productive feedback to them. Taking the Paladin, Warrior, Druid and Death Knight situation as an example; then we know the following:

1) all tanks should be main tank capable
2) no fight should be impossible with any combination of tanks
3) gimmick fights should be rare
4) tanks should overall be similar in survivability, threat and utility

1 and 2 really fall together, Blizzard admitted in TBC trying to make Paladins into Off tanks and AoE tanks (two roles the tankadin community tried to minimise as a strength but not one that meant your Paladin tanked everything to the boss then went healing), and Druids into off tanks and fluid hybrids. This decision being reversed makes a lot of sense given that both communities attempted to rebel and wanted to main tank as well as being supporting roles.

3 fits in with this as well, gimmick fights by their nature must either be trucusl such that not having access to the gimmick (for example using a non-protection Paladin on Morogrim's ads), or it must rule out 1 and 2 by ruling out another tank class as a progression tank. This you need to offer a gimmick solution to all tanks to allow then to at least survive the encounter reasonably.

4 is again vital, in tanking if one tanking class simply makes it easier to do an encounter, then they will be used, since we are aiming to make everyone viable this is a route that cannot be taken without an ability to offset it (so reduced damage but adding some trick to make the other tanks viable).

Problem is that this is about all the feedback testers have, so Warriors feel that other classes are getting all the main tank functionality added while they don't get enough AoE to offset it. Paladins worry for their AoE role now being better performed by Warriors and lacking mitigation. Druids worry for AoE, losing their massive mitigation and being itemized as rogues. Death Knights just worry, feeling squishie, lacking threat, lacking utility and so on. Some of these are justified, however a lot of the worry is that there is no direction to our worries, if we knew something akin to:

Mitigation: as Warrior, focused on consistent high block and "uncrushable" status

Threat: high, holy damage with very high threat multiplier, main threat through ShoR and Consecration.

Caster capability: weak, immunity through utility cooldowns, high number of overlapping escapes, sacrifices utility to use.

Group role: utility healer or dps, of role lacking due to reactive threat

Then we would have something to go ok, a framework for feedback rather than throwing darts in the dark and hoping our feedback and ideas come closer to the plan than not. Testing raw numbers is east, getting the class right isn't. Letting us in on the design process is great but I would rather have an idea about the path and the goal so that I can focus onto it and give constructive feedback on things other than numbers (which as GC mentioned are easily changed), and this actually help make things work rather than ending up worrying over nothing.

So we finally got a tool to let us interrupt casters, though a 1 minute cooldown, or 40s talented (thought typically considered a pvp talent it will now show up in PvE builds). Alas I forsee some problems with the implementation, specifically that it's been applied to an existing ability in a way which doesn't alter the existing functionality on trash or players but only on stun immune mobs.

It us still something to be happy about, just rather than adding functionality to the class if has instead simply covered a glaring walesknesd while still leaving the class overall as one of the weakest in the area duerto the long cooldown and more specifically the single tool to perform two tasks. Hammer of Judgment was a tool to control a target and reduce its damage by removing it from combat for 6 seconds. Giving it the secondary functionality makes it a viable boss tanking tool (for which I am glad we finally got access to) however involves and still leaves us as a very short ranged (and typically paladin abilities are semi-ranged) ranged and inflexible on pulls, sometimes you want to interrupt and lockout but not stun to assist a pull rather than relying on line of sight mechanics.

This system of buffing existing abities to perform a dual task sets a bad precedent as was found with the Druid fear break, damage enhancer, and shield wall ability. That is that most of the Rome you want only one of the features and in the cases where you are likely to want more than one of the components up it's typically far superior to have the parts separated and only one of them on the global cooldown this giving you the flexibility associated with the individual mechanics but not sacrificing all of you option for a single role.

I will keep this short, I really want to see feedback from more people and how this ability evolves in the next few builds (and if Ghostcrawler keeps posting in our forums even ufvrstely about the differences between live beta and the development beta). I know that the paladin community will be happy that we finally have access to some of the tools to tank that we have been requesting for years however I am sure that the implementation if this one is going to come back and hit us at some time in the future. It is not as though paladins ever hadva large range of base abilities in any of their roles, so merging two makes us very minimal.

On a side note, first ever post from a mobile device, I have sat and types this on my iPhone and it's honestly quite a nice experience, just no direct control over HTML and styles so short to the point posts :P.

The Beta forums are a strange place, every class telling everyone else "we won't get taken" while their neighbours look over at them jealously and say "but why can't we have ability ". In truth many of the classes with the fewest buffs were those with the strongest position in the Burning Crusade, those that least needed the improvement. As I honestly couldn't compare DPS classes easily I will focus on the Tanking classes, or rather on the Warrior
vs Paladins et al.

It can really be summarised by the comment from the US Warrior Forums:Why bring X class when Y, W, & Z class bring all of X class' abilities and so much more

Who needs warriors when Blessing of Might is superior to Battleshout
Who needs warriors when Leader of the Pack is superior to Rampage
Who needs warriors when Blood Poisoning is superior to Blood Frenzy (and rogues can misdirect)

you should see a trend here...
Ghostcrawler, as typical for her, concluded a rather nice response:You would really prefer to be brought to a raid because your dps sucks but everyone likes your buff? Doesn't that make you feel like a mascot or something?

How about: you get to come to a raid because you're a good player and do good dps?
Followed closely in another thread by:
We believe Titan's Grip would be too much of a dps increase without some kind of penalty. I couldn't tell you with any kind of certainty that the current one is the one that we'll ship with. The math works out (for us -- I realize not everyone agrees) but if it's too punitive and nobody can make the spec work, we'll change it.

I realize some people are nursing long grudges for mistakes we've made in the past (and to be fair, sometimes when they *think* we've made a mistake). Absent a convenient CoT Portal, we can't undo any of that, so we'll just try to maintain better relations in the future.

It's a BAD thing if someone logs into Lich King, plays for a few hours, is unimpressed with the changes to their class and decides not to go explore Northrend. That is not something we want to happen. On the other hand, it's also a bad thing if you are totally dominated or shown up by other classes. But when you think about it from our perspective, we really do want everyone to be excited about their class.
Simply, Blizzard is aiming for balance, perhaps not what we see as balance but they aim such that each class has a reason to be brought to a raid beyond simply being a buff bot, of being asked to stand outside and rebuff every 30minutes or an hour to maximise the raid. Every person should be valuable beyond simply their buffs, you should be allowed to play with a minimal spanning set of buffs and still achieve the goal of progression with any reasonable combination of classes.

Warriors vs Et al
So lets get to the real meat of this, what is there really for a Tank to do, what does every Tank need to do and how do we differentiate the Tanking classes such that there is flexibility, variability, but also the simple competence to get the job done.

Firstly lets define what in my mind a Tank needs to be capable of to actually perform their role as a Tank, this assumption changes a lot, so if you view it differently your conclusions will be different.

I define Tanking in a few distinct areas:

  • Physical Mitigation and Avoidance
    • Physical Mitigation: Block
    • Physical Mitigation: Armour
    • Avoidance: Dodge
    • Avoidance: Parry
    • Avoidance: Miss
  • Magical Mitigation and Avoidance
    • Magical Mitigation: Damage Reduction
    • Magical Avoidance: Miss
    • Magical Avoidance: Immunity
  • Threat
    • Constant Threat Generation
    • Spike Aggro Generation
    • Snap Aggro Generation
    • Multi-target Threat
  • Utility
    • Environmental
    • Anti-caster
    • Emergency Buttons
  • Niche
Many of these are as simple as they sound, however addressing them is important, so lets look at each section in turn and see if we can achieve a balance without a Homogenisation of the classes.

Physical Mitigation and Avoidance
This is the bread and butter of Tanking, being capable of taking unmitigated hits of 20,000 to 40,000 damage, and surviving several of them. This can be performed in a few ways, firstly scaling damage reduction in the form of avoidance, typically any of the 3 types (Dodge, Parry, Miss) can be stacked, Parry being the best overall tool for mitigation and threat generation but also the most costly to stack, and Miss only being stackable through Defense. Typically a Tank will aim for 50%-75% avoidance, this means that in general we aim not to take more than 2 hits back to back (12.5% chance of 3 hits in a row with 50% avoidance, ~2% with 75% avoidance), Blizzard typically assumes a Tank will have ~50% avoidance as a base level when doing their damage assignments (So a T6 Tank will be assumed to have more, but you shouldn't regularly be taking 3 hits in arow).

The second type of mitigation is non-scaling, that is block and static damage reduction (the latter is applied before armour so sees a reduced effect, where as Block is applied after armour so at higher levels is effectively more reduction). Non-scaling mitigation is typically far superior against fast light blows, and almost irrelevant against high damage scenarios. Taking an example a Paladin can tank Caverns of Time: The Battle for Mount Hyjal in block gear with ~1000 block, and consider only the Abominations to deal any damage at all (a Retribution Paladin could heal me through the Ghoul waves for example), in contrast the same Paladin would never wear this to tank Teron as the 10-25% avoidance gained is far more effective on the Healers than mitigating 10% or so of each incoming hit and risking more back to back hits.

Typically these two are balanced against each other and with armour, the goal being that the overall Effective Health of the Tank (basically a calculation to determine what your damage reduction in terms of static reductions is since avoidance relies on probability), and the avoidance levels achievable should be balanced across all classes. For Warriors and Paladins this should be similar due to sharing gear, Death Knights seem to have higher armour than Warriors and Paladins (strange but true) and rely on cooldowns to achieve the time to live (very low effective health due to no block), while Druids have high armour and health. Overall these mechanics can be easily balanced using a time to live calculation and working from that, each tank should ideally survive around the same time without heals against a boss.

Magical Mitigation and Avoidance
This area is relatively new, while Paladins and Druids have been asking for help in this region for a long time it has never been addressed. What this means is essentially ways to avoid taking magical damage (which ignores armour, if it didn't we wouldn't need this topic as it would be the same as physical). Warriors essentially have a 16% Magical damage reduction, coupled with the ability to reflect spells at the caster for damage. Death Knights gain personal magical damage reduction and a prismatic resistance aura, and a 75% reduction of magical damage up ~ 1/3rd of the time. Paladin come in with a 6% reduction.

As there are bosses which deal magical damage, and trash which deals extensive magical damage this is important, while in the past Reliquery of Souls was essentially only tankable by a Warrior Tank (well phase 2, it has been tanked by Paladins and Druids but only if they overgear the phase massively) due to being able to reflect the deaden onto the boss. This as a design principle is flawed, its not that Paladins and Druids can Tank the boss, but rather that its nearly impossible to do so in a progression attempt.

In this kind of region I feel that we need to address this, thus looking at Paladins there is already a solution in the Illidari Council fight, Blessing of Spell Warding, making this into the new system and toning it down to a useful yet viable buff:Hand of Spell Warding:
30s cooldown, lasts 5s, single target within 30 yards
The target becomes immune to spell damage and has all harmful debuffs removed from them.
For Druids something playing into their mitigation idea, perhaps something like:Runic Tatoos:
5 minute duration, 20 minute cooldown, self buff
Magical Damage is counted as Physical damage
Both of these are simple solutions, the first for Paladins fits the design and gives them some utility in being able to reduce the damage taken by others, this means that it can be used in other fights from and Off-Tank (or even Main Tank) position to help the raid. Its not as powerful as the Death Knight version due to a 1/6th uptime (1/2 that of the Death Knight Anti-Magic-Shell) however it does fully mitigate the damage rather than 75%.

The Druid version is the weakest in terms of instant mitigation, however provides a well armoured Tank with incredible magical damage reduction for long periods. The Druid version is also hindered by the long cooldown meaning it may not be up for each attempt guaranteed, these could easily be massaged however to something more fitting if its not viable.

These solutions look to fit with the role need, and don't really infringe on each other, its a different solution to the same problem, and gives each tanking class the fundamental method to deal with spells without stepping on each other's toes.

Threat is the second key area of Tanking, a dead Tank makes no threat, however a living Tank that isn't ahead of the DPS isn't a Tank. In general threat can be divided into a few key areas. In reverse order we have:

Multi-target Threat
This is the capability of a Tank to maintain decent aggro on 2-4 targets at once (holding at least from the Healers), with the current design most tanks are fairly equal in this area using either Cleaves or AoE spells to maintain aggro. Typically on this number of targets any Tank can allow for moderate AoE (whether AoE on 2 targets is effective is a different question :P).

Area of Effect Threat
This was the Paladin niche role, the ability to maintain and manage threat on 5+ targets, in the Beta Paladins retain Consecration so can handle this fight area, Warriors gained an 8 target (glyphed) Thunderclap, an unrestricted frontal Cone (Shockwave) and reactive damage making them nearly the equivalent of Paladins. Death Knights have access to AoE diseases, Death and Decay and various other abilities that hit multiple targets, their overall threat generation on AoE pulls should be similar to that of a Paladin, however with less room for error due to the longer cooldown on abilities (higher damage / time, longer cooldown).

The odd Tank out here is Druids, who maintain only 3-4 target abilities. Typically for this I would simply assume something akin to Shockwave would be appropriate, or a buffing of thorns. Perhaps aiming for something slightly more unique:Frenzied Rage:
Instant attack, 15s cooldown, 15 rage
You instantly attack all targets within range dealing {Damage} and causing {Damage} over 8s. This ability generates high threat.
Its a little like shockwave, however is a bleed effect (while Consecration and Death and Decay are static areas of effect this one moves), and hits all targets you could normally hit (Shockwave is ranged, and cone). Its far from a "wow thats totally different to everything before it" but hopefully it addresses some AoE utility, while maintaining some flavour.

Single Target Threat
Single target threat is what defines Tanking classes, we generate a lot of it. In short all Tanks need the ability to generate more threat than a DPS class performing a reasonably optimal rotation with a reasonable set of buffs (holding from a continual Heroism effect on a non-salvation equivalent Warlock is not reasonable, holding from a Warlock spamming shadow bolts with pauses to life tap is). It tends to come in 3 major forms, constant aggro, spike aggro, and snap aggro.

Constant aggro is generated by Warriors and Druids, their abilities on short cooldowns generate a fairly linear ramp in terms of threat, very easy to predict, however doesn't scale at the start of a fight (thus why Warriors typically ask DPS to wait for 5 Sunders). Constant aggro is the best in terms of boss fights typically as its easy to predict when you will get your threat ceiling increasing.

Spike aggro is typical of a Paladin, we front load damage (Mana vs Rage) in a spike, then are forced to wait 8s+ for the next cooldown with only Consecration and Seals on the boss. Spike aggro works very nicely for picking up phase changes and such like and is similar to snap aggro, however it is as its nature suggests spiky so can be harder for a DPS class to maintain an idea of the threat ceiling if they are not familiar with the Tank.

Snap aggro is the ability to generate threat over a very short period of time, typically enough to at least overcome the Healing threat generated over a boss transition. Paladins with spike aggro tend to work very well for this, however all classes can perform some kind of snap-aggro move once they are in a fight (and thus have rage).

The tanking classes need to be fairly similar in single target threat, as with mitigation and avoidance, to ensure that each has a fair shot at Tanking bosses, any obvious threat leader would become the default Tank for threat races, and barring any negatives associated with it would be the default Tank. Trading some mitigation for threat would be viable if fights are still handleable by the reduced mitigation.

Environmental is really a misnomer, what I mean by this is the ability to avoid environment wide debuffs such as stuns, disorientates, fears and silences. These kind of features massively reduce the capability of a Tank to Tank and generate threat. At current most Tanks are fairly equally affected by stuns and disorientates, however Silences, Mana burns and fears have a disproportionate effect on Paladins and Druids.

Addressing the Fear issues is easy, removing forebearance from the hand spells (and the hand of spell warding above) Paladins would gain a fear breaker similar to a Warriors, however consume a utility spell to do so making it slightly less flexible. Druids I can see two good paths to go, firstly would simply being to reduce the cooldown on their fear break (from 3 minutes to 60s / 180s), alternatively to something more like:
Feral Rage:
Passive Self Buff, 60s internal cooldown
When an effect would cause you to lose control of your character you instead are immune to control loss effects for 20s and gain 20% damage. You cannot be affected by this more than once every 60s.
Its a damage boost, making Druids the Tank of choice for moderate fear fights (60s or so between them, similar to Nightbane) due to the damage / threat boost. It is however not enough to cover a fight like Archimonde alone (3/4ths of fears could be caught using the trinket as well assuming a 30s fear rate), meaning its both a massive benefit, and a large but situational benefit in other places.

Hopefully again we have added the utility to fear that is lacking in several classes, but in a way that is both interesting and not overlapping.

Addressing Silences and Mana Burns, the best solution I have seen is simply a deep Protection talent that makes Protection Paladins immune to silence / mana burn resistant. This gives them the ability to Tank any of these fights as well as a rage based tank without losing the flavour. Fights can simply be altered if necessary to handle this without affecting one Tank in an arbitrary manner, you can still Rage / Mana burn in RoS pt 3 if thats appropriate, but in a fight like Kaz'rogal or Azgalor where the silence and burn effect is designed to force the Tank to use avoidance moves (no heals due to silence) and force movement / non-strict enrage timer (Kaz'rogal's mana burn) then having these affect the tank is just a bad design decision if we are aiming for balanced tanks.

Spell Interrupt, moderate cooldown.

Yup thats it, a Tank needs to be capable of dealing with fights like Princess Delrissa, or Hex Lord Malacrass without ensuring that the group is stacked with an interrupter. This doesn't have to be fast, something as slow as the Mage 24s, or as fast as the Shaman 6s versions could all be made to work, however when a Tank cannot guarantee that they can Tank a boss without assistance its a bad decision.

Utility is the added fun in a Tank, its what you do when not Tanking, its what you do when you have a spare cooldown. This is where Blizzard can have a lot of fun with the Tanks because utility does not have to be balanced so heavily. Typically this is things like Paladin bubbles and Hands, Warrior Intervene, Druid Fluid Hybrid.

The key with utility is to make it a) viable, b) appropriate. No Tank should be asked not to Tank due to their utility being more important than Main Tanking the boss, however the same holds true that no Tank should be kicked out the raid for another DPS / Healer when not Main Tanking the boss. Utility is the reason a Tank should be kept in a raid even on single target fights. Whether this is DPS, Healing, or something a Tank actually wants to do it should all be considered. I am not going to suggest anything specific in here, lets hear what others think on Tank utility.

A niche role should be the area a Tank excels in, and should be the preferred Tank for fights in that theme. Typically this is:

Death Knight: Heavy Magic Fights
Druid: Sustained High Damage Fights
Paladin: AoE Fights
Warrior: Utility Fights (no other Tank can match the raw number of abilities and options a Warrior has, intervene, safeguard, mocking blow etc).

A niche should never be a unique role, no Tank should be thrown out, however niche fights can and will exist, but should be balanced across the 4 classes such that there is a reason and benefit to every Tanking class, and the best solution for a Tanking team is actually one of each class rather than four of a single class.

Conclusions and Thoughts
I hope I have made some suggestions, something you can take away and think about, that Homogenisation isn't a bad thing if done correctly. It should be a drawing together of cause and effect rather than of abilities, giving flavour and balance should not be something that you throw in the air and pray for, but something you look at the role of the class and if it has the tools to perform that role.

No one would ever take a Warlock to a Fire / Shadow immune fight, nor a Mage to a Fire / Arcane / Frost immune boss, doing so breaks their class design, yet by having multiple schools these classes can be brought to single school immunity fights and still perform. Good design up front gives the instance and boss designers freedom to use the tools they have access too. Homogenisation isn't about being the same, its about making sure that your sonic screwdriver works as well as my toolkit.