Tuesday, March 29, 2011

[Druid]Antitanks in Cataclsym

(the antitank image from that article oh so long ago - because russian dogs with explosives strapped to them charging tanks needs to be shown at least one more time)

Recently we've got a lot - and I do mean a LOT - of various bloggers talking about the joys of feral hybrids and the greatness that is being able to do tanking and DPS in the same spec and the same gear. Reesi and Tangedyn from the Inconspicuous Bear do a great job of illustrating where it's useful and what the tradeoffs and considerations are for doing it. Alaron brought it up again (and that came from Wowinsider too). Even Jacemora got into the mix.

Hell, it's not like I hate it. I talked about it way back in the day. (Ironically the build is actually a bit less friendly now than it was then for this sort of thing.

It's all the rage! It's awesome! It makes you 100% more awesome than just having flight form!

And it's also really, really bad for some folks who want to play ferals. But I'll get to that at the end.

Here's the build I'd use (and am likely to switch to soon), if you were curious. The biggest pain point is the loss of feral aggression, which hurts. For doing dailies having nothing that boosts ravage also hurts, but not so amazingly. Because I took nothing that boosted FB, I did not take Blood in the Water either; while it is a DPS boost it is not such a tremendous one that it's required, and more importantly the chances to actually use it when you're tanking and swapping are pretty low, as you're not usually able to get a rip up and then reapply it with the CP necessary. The primary reason I'd switch is simply to get an idea of how to play a moonkin.

Here are some guidelines on when it is good and when it's not that useful.

When it's good:
  • When the tank is not tanking 100% of the time. Any time that you have downtime on tanking and would otherwise DPS is a time when the hybrid gear/hybrid spec can be significantly advantageous. As Reesi points out, doing 8k more DPS than the next tank is a good reason to bring you over another tank. Being able to do that regularly means that you can either afford to bring an extra tank and drop a DPS slot with little loss to raid viability or be able to bring more utility and survivability in your DPS and make up for raw damage with what you can bring. There are a lot of encounters in this tier where there are significant portions of the fight that you aren't actively tanking and which threat is not a primary concern (such as tank swaps) and Reesi does a good job of talking about them.
  • When you need to tank only for short amounts of time. Any time you're only tanking for a small chunk of time and that time can largely be covered by defensive CDs is a good time for a hybrid build. Druids are great for this because of things like barkskin.
  • When your raid for whatever reason likes letting tanks die. This is the herobear case Alaron talks about above, and it's vanishingly rare to happen - but if you find it happening a lot in your raid, consider this as a very useful piece of utility.
  • When bosses don't hit for a lot or avoidance is otherwise awesome. This one is crucial. This was the primary reason it was okay when I talked about the antitank stuff for WotLK - because bosses hit for almost nothing and avoidance was great since druids hit their stamina check very early, avoidance was much better - and because of that, agility was a big win. Aside from heroic Nef, the bosses this tier don't hit for a huge amount. As a result you can simply adjust gear slightly (using things like stamina trinkets) and have enough health to deal with most bosses while actually taking less overall damage. And since mana is an issue right now, this is a Good Thing.
Now the thing is that all of these things are true right now. That's good to realize. That's good to understand. But it's not necessarily going to be true in the future. Encounters will be designed with all tanks in mind, and those other tanks don't do things like get gear loaded with strength and crit on it. Bosses will hit hard enough to scare those tanks who are stacking stamina. Keep that in mind and make sure you understand when it's bad.

When it's bad:
  • When you're tanking 100% of the time. If you're the single tank with no swaps, there's not a lot of advantage to being a hybrid. You have more avoidance thanks to your gear selections, but you could have done that anyway if it was better - and chances are that you've reforged primarily to mastery, not dodge, which isn't as good. The difference between a bear in DPS gear and a bear in stam gear in terms of damage isn't so amazing; you get your dividends in dps not from doing it in bear with dps gear, but from going cat. So you're tradiing utility and potentially damage reduction (especially if you skipped infected wounds or perseverance) for...nothing.
  • When you're DPSing 100% of the time. Herobear notwithstanding, you are losing DPS if you're speccing this way. Even with pure DPS gear you lose somewhere between 5-10% DPS just from going this route depending on your talent choices. You can also lose some utility that most will expect from you - Nurturing Instinct is often the one that goes by the wayside, and a NI-powered tranq is about twice as good as a non-NI powered tranq. In this case, you're trading DPS and utilty for the ability to not get crit when...nothing attacks you.
  • When specialized gear really matters. Being able to hybridize is mostly a function of gear choice, not spec choice. The spec differences are fairly minor, and the glyph differences aren't going to necessarily kill you (though the 'important' ones are almost all kitty), but the gear choice is huge and is easily a 20-40% difference in damage for a cat. Between the meta, the enchants, the gemming and the reforging it's a very large swing in stats. If as a bear you need to have 200k health and a ton of dodge and mastery doesn't matter (like, for example, if you're going up against heroic Nef as the MT) being a hybrid won't help you. This was the primary death of the antitank in Ulduar times - things just hit too damn hard.
As Reesi illustrated above right now the number of encounters that require a 100% tank is not nearly as much as the ones that don't. And the fights that benefit from more DPS from a tank are more common than the ones that wouldn't. Right now, it makes quite a bit of sense.

Except...well, except the bad parts.

What are the bad parts? They're basically TBC all over again, is what.

If bears are the best tank to do things like tank some of the time, they will almost never be the tank that tanks 100% of the time on fights. If you like being a tank on every single encounter, this is bad news for you. If you like tanking 100% of the time on a single encounter this is also bad.

In raid guilds, bears will be deprioritized for tanking gear over the 100% tanks - and rightfully so. Why should they get that awesome tanking trinket if they only use it half the time? This is tough to deal with for some.

It's sometimes going to be a fight to get gear as a DPS as well. Why give it to you when you're just using it for offtanking? Shouldn't it go to a DPS who will use it to do more DPS more often?

Bears already have a prejudice towards them as being 'bad' tanks (mostly for their AOE threat and AoE mitigation). This isn't going to help.

And if you like being a cat - it's also bad news. If you don't care about tanking at all, if that's not interesting to you whatsoever and you like being a feral cat, chances are this is a huge hit. Feral DPS was already meh - but having the trend being doing DPS while not tanking and then tanking something? That's what raids are starting to expect from ferals. Being an awesome offtank means that a lot of time that's what they'll expect from you. They'll want that to be the case and want you to go tank and if you suck at it, or don't like it, or whatever - that'll be a knock on you.

And yes, it sucks hard for heroics. You'll miss having things like IW or skull bash on a 10-second CD, you'll miss that utility, and it'll not feel right. That's not a big deal, but it's something to consider; it's something I went through when I had my awesome spec for HAnub that didn't have 5 rage reduction on abilities. For HAnub it didn't matter; I was getting tons of rage and I didn't need it early. But for heroics? Ugh, it was like molasses.

And honestly? Feral DPS is so meh in raiding right now and ranged is so awesome that it makes a lot of sense to go feral hybrid/moonkin as your two specs; it gives a lot more flexibility while doing a hell of a lot more damage when not tanking. That's sadly the way it is this tier.

For me, personally, this is fine. I enjoy tanking, I enjoy DPS, and I plan on doing both in raids when I'm raiding. If it makes sense to go hybrid on fights because of tight DPS checks, then it's great. Being able to make other tanks cry unfair can be fun.

But it can also be fun being the main tank. And it can also be fun being competitive with rogues and warriors on DPS. And as long as hybrid builds are possible and having 'high dps while tanking some of the time' is a feature, it will be very, very hard to get improvements to tanking or DPS for ferals. Keep in mind that for every TBC-era feral that loved being the best offtank and loved being able to do tanking or DPS depending on what mood fit them and loved the herobear, there was a feral that was pissed off their class wasn't being considered for MT and didn't want to screw around with being a DPS - or a feral that loved being a cat but didn't want to tank at all. Hell, in Fire and Blood we had all three kinds of ferals at the same friggin time.

I guess that's where my animosity comes from (if I have any) - from remembering the arguments from people in my own guild that said that I clearly couldn't get the things like barkskin or shield wall or even a reliable interrupt because I can dps, and you shouldn't be able to both be as good a tank as anyone AND be as good a DPS as anyone. The niche of being the best offtank is not the most fun for a lot of people, and there is some genuine frustration there. Or not being able to be buffed for DPS because hey, you can tank! That changed quite a bit in WotLK, but there's a chance that things are going back to the old way.

My gut feeling is that because this is the opening tier things aren't hitting super hard - but they will. That tank damage and danger will start ratcheting up, and EH will start ruling the roost once again. When that happens and stamina, armor and resistance start making more of a sway on gearing choices I suspect that it won't matter on hybridization, and if you're a hybrid you'll be doing tanking only very rarely because you'll need two tanks who can be hit like a nail. But that's just a guess.

1 comment:

Goodmongo said...

For the longest time it seemed that I was a lone voice in the wilds against the hybrid rage. I tried to list many of the points you did here. Thank you very much for saying this. I'll be borrowing parts of it (and linking) then reposting on other forums as this debate continues.