Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hot topic: Shaman tanks

Some days ago, I wrote a post where I made a wish of seeing shaman tanks. When I checked today, I had gotten a ton of comments. Well, not literally a ton, but 12 (at the time this is written), which is like 4 times as many as any other post I've written earlier. It's rather obvious there are strong opinions on the topic.

I'd like to reply to all comments. Not necessarily defend myself, as a lot of you have very good arguments, so good that I'd rather be convinced that believe I'm the unmatched authorithy on the topic.

Obviously, shaman tanks aren't a new idea. Generally, among shamans themselves, it seems that there are very strong feelings on the subject. A lot of people want shamans to be able to tank again. A lot of other people want shamans to remain as they are now. Colm points out that there are inherit problems combining dps and tank in a single talent tree (like feral druids). I agree on that. It will cause a lot of tweaking and adjusting to get the balance right, and that takes a lot of time, if it will ever be done.

Gravity suggests that they don't get plate-equivalent armor but stay at mail and off-tank with that. I strongly disagree with this point. If you want them to be tank, you need them to be full-blown tanks. I've got BC far too fresh in memory, where you had there different types of tanks for different purposes. That was a pain, pure and simple. No, either they should be able to tank anything, or not at all. However, they could remain at mail and get their mitigation from other sources instead of boosting their armor. The problem with that from a game-design view is that non-cloth/leather/mail items with armor on, such as some trinkets, would be far more valuable for shamans than for other tanking classes. Look at it this way: If you have 30k armor and increase armor by 2k, you get less mitigation increase than if you have 20k armor and add another 2k.

Stormcrazed misses the days of 2-handed smashing. I never had a shaman in classic, but I did heal a lot of them in PVP. What I remember about them was their burst... both ways. They were very easy to burst down, and had very high bursts if not killed themselves. Fairly hard to keep up, but of course clothies dropped faster when focused by melee. I haven't tried lately; What is preventing you from just grabbing a big 2-hander and doing some WSG now? Is the dps so inferior to dual-wielding these days?

Stri'dah feels I neglected totems a lot in my post. I did, and it was fairly intentional. My thoughts were that since most of a shamans utility is tied up to totems, it was a bad thing to mess too much with them, or they'd lose that utility. However, as he points out, you could add additional effects to the various totems. Well, he didn't point that out explicitly, but I thought about from reading his comments. As long as you avoid shaman becoming the "stationary" tank by having them suffer too much from moving away from their totems, it could work out. However, you need to avoid the problem that as soon as a totem is taken out (for example by some adds spawning) the tank is no longer uncrittable. THAT would be messy.

In fact, Stri'dah was so fired up by the idea that he wrote his own blog post on the topic. Quite a lot of intesting ideas there. I particularly liked how he shared stuff from the lore that I previously didn't know about.

I particularly liked the idea of having water totems provide a temporary health increase. One thing I've been wondering about for some time; When streamlining all the buffs in the game, why didn't Blizz make Stoneskin totem and Devotion aura provide the same buff?

Suggestions about Rockbiter comes up times and again in the comments. Shamans already have a threat-increasing weapon buff, why just not keep that? Good point, really. At least it solves the problem that dps shamans that doesn't want to shouldn't get aggro. The only minor problem is that rockbiter is fairly ... uninteresting, compared to the other weapon enchants. Tanks should have some fun as well. On the other hand, while RNG burst dps isn't a problem (Windfury), RNG burst threat is a problem. You want to have reliable threat generation, and boring but reliable beats interesting but ineffective any day.

An anonymous commenter has a lot of ideas about abilities that could be used while tanking. At this point, I'd like to point out that the basic idea of my post was to make shaman working tanks. I wanted to post some suggestions on how it could be done. There are also a lot of other ideas on how it could be done, and mine are not necessarily better than others. In fact, I'm 100% sure that a lot of people have better ideas than me on the topic, I don't do this for a living.

I'd just like to comment on one thing in particular. Apply a taunt to Frost Shock might be a bad idea. If Earth Shock (or some other tanking shock) generates more threat, not much problem. However, if Frost Shock generates the most threat as well, then you'll have the problem that you need two rotations for the shaman tank, one for main tank duty and one for off-tank duty. The off-tank doesn't want to taunt the boss all the time. Even the main-tank doesn't want to taunt him all the time, if it's diminishing returns on the taunts.

Otherwise, I found the other ideas interesting.

Windsoar illuminated me; some shamans have been tanking, even on Anub'arak. Neat! Too bad we're not going to see shaman tanks in random 5-mans anytime soon unless they get some tank-buff-loving. It'd be fun to watch that video, though. The next poster even included the name of the guy. Phew. It must be hard to make it work despite the system trying (sortof) to hinder you all the time.

I did include a tanking shield spell, Ice Shield. But as further comments suggest, Ice is not a good choice of theme for a shaman tank.

Let's talk themes. There are four classic elements: Fire, Water/Ice, Wind/Air and Earth/Rock. There's also various talks about a fifth element, such as a "spirit" element and the "spirits of azeroth" that Stri'dah mentions. Then there are three (fitting) magic schools in WoW: Fire, Frost and Nature. So, Fire and Frost has their spesific damage type, while Wind/Air and Earth/Rock share the nature school.

Current staus:

Restoration has a lot of water-themed spells. You could argue that Chain Heal is slightly themed of Chain Lightning, in effect air. They also have one spell that's clearly different, Earth Shield. No prize for guessing what element it is based on. Restoration lacks (obviously) any damage spells, so they don't care about any school of magic at all.

Elemental has a lot of fire-themed spells, such as Lava Burst, Flame Shock, Magma Totem, Fire Nova and to a lesser degree Totem of Wrath. But a huge part of their rotation consists of Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning, which are Air/Nature spells. In addition, they've got Thunderstorm, and a lot of talents that has names reminding of storms and stuff. They've also got a talent which specifically lowers the cooldown of Frost Shock (and Flame Shock).

Enhancement has a lot of Earth and Air spells. Earth Shock is their main earth spell, but they also got talens like Earthen Power. They also use a lot of Air spells, and Lightning Shield must be said to be included in that. You can argue that Maelstrom Weapon is also air-themed, but it could also be water-themed, unless I misunderstand the concept. Then there are some focus on frost spells, but that has mainly been aimed towards PVP enhancement, a rather uncommon design choice among any of their trees.

The reason I chose to theme my suggestions of Ice/Water/Frost was that Stormstrike buffs nature damage. I thought that it was better to make Frost the tank damage-theme, and Nature the enhancement dps-theme. However, it does make a lot more sense to base tanking on Earth/Rock rather than ice/water.

You could rename Earth Shield to Spirit shield, as suggested by someone. To avoid naming confusion, you could have Rock Shield as the main tanking-shield spell, and it might work like suggested about Ice Shield in my last post. Another shock could be introduced, Lightning or Thunder Shock, which could be the main dps shock while Earth Shock became the main tank shock. You could change Stormstrike to increase the damage of lightning spells instead of nature spells, then it would include all dps elements (the new shock, lightning bolt, chain lightning, and lightning shield). As a commenter suggested, you could make the tanking spells more based around mountains. Make Landslide as an initial threat spell like Shockwave and Avenger's Shield. Change my suggested Icicle to something with earth... Earthquake Shield? Not completely satisfied with that suggestion...

I like that better, when I think about it. Thanks for the heads-up.

Wulfy: Thrall is probably my favorite person in all of WoW's lore. ... Would be awesome to tank as he does.

Thanks for all the comments. It made me very happy to know that my posts are actually being read. Perhaps I should follow Gravity's suggestion and move to Wordpress so I can get a hit-counter on the site. Perhaps someone can point me out to a gadget that can do that on blogspot?


  1. I would love to see shaman have a tanking tree. Another thing I would like to see it the spec not requiring another set of gear. Kind of out there thought but I think it would be very cool if the resto tree became the tanking tree for shammies. Resto is already the most survivable spec for a shaman. What if the talents provided your heals with damage and threat comparable to other classes. I know this could create a ton of balancing issues but it offeres a totally fresh take on tanking. Earth shield may have a damage reduction added. Talents make all heals become self cast only otherwise who would bring a healer to the 5man, riptide become and AOE taunt. Windshear possibly a single target taunt. Earth elemental becomes an oh crap button. Make one talent so that heals are cooldown based and/or only cause damage to a target instead of healing yourself. There are a million ways you could tweak it. Just thought the fresh take was worth a mention. If anyone ever reads this, I'm sure I'll be called an idiot so thanks in advance.

  2. Thrall is also my reason for becoming a Shaman! :)

    Good post! Now send it to Blizzard with a bag of money!

  3. Pete: That's an interesting proposal. Fresh and original idea. I'm not going to call you an idiot. However, I rate the probability that Restoration becomes the tanking tree for shamans even lower than that Enhancement becomes it.