The background is something like this: I've spent some time levelling my paladin recently. While I've come to enjoy the paladin class a lot more, I still find I'm at odds with the "feel" of the class; The righteous, holier-than-thou warrior. I also got some of the same feeling from my priest when I spent some time playing her recently; a theme based on light and shadow is not what I'm really after. It works for many, and it's okay for me too, but I find I enjoy other themes more.
I enjoy druids. While they have some in-game quirks I'm not too happy about, they're decently cool. Well, I have some trouble with the moonkin form, but I can live with that. By the way, what is the wrath spell anyway? It just doesn't make much sense to me.
But, the healer class I really like from a theme-perspective is shaman. Then the thought trailed further, and I started imagining how it would be if they could tank. It would be awesome if shamans could tank as well! While it wouldn't solve the "tank crisis", it might be one step closer to it.
Anyway, I started thinking what would be necessary to make them tanks. That made me think about the other tanking classes, and what made them tanks. Like feral druids, melee dps shamans and tank shamans would share the enhancement tree as their main spec tree.
ThemeAll classes have some themes they range over. In addition, each talent tree has an underlying theme or focus, which usually is a sub-theme of the main class. In that way, each tank has a theme they are tilted towards.
For example: Warriors are, like the name implies, fighters skilled in the use of weaponry. Arms warriors are the iconic fighter with a huge sword or axe that fights with great skill. Fury warriors embody the raging barbarians. Protection warriors are the sword'n'board fighters who also use their shield offensively.
Druid tanks have (obviously) bears as their theme. Protection paladins have ... ehm... Captain America as their ideal? Seriously, though, it's more the protecting, self-sacrificing holy warrior. Death Knights are semi-unique, since they can tank in any tree. The choice of tree have more effect than whether they are tanking or not, though they are slightly tilted towards Frost as their tanking theme (Frost Presence, and frost fever causing the necessary attack speed reduction on enemies).
For shamans, they are themed around the powerful and sometimes destructive elements found in the world. Restoration shamans embody the ocean and water. Elemental shamans are most tilted towards fire, flame and lava, but also storms and lightning. Enhancement shamans are more focused on storms and lightning, with a hint of cold/ice.
For a shaman tank, it would mainly be based on the already existing shamanic theme, but could be further tilted towards ice and cold. It fits with Frost Shock already causing higher threat than the other two shocks.
Holding AggroThere is nothing more annoying than joining a group and watch the tank unable to keep aggro on anything at all.
ThreatThe first important property of a tank, he must be able to hold aggro. However, shamans must also be able to avoid aggro when they're not tanking. Their attacks must cause more threat than they currently do if they want a decent hope of holding aggro. Looking at the other classes: warriors have stances, death knights has presences, druids have forms, and paladins have a "threat spell". That would probably be the easiest way to solve it, give them a spell they can cast to cause additional threat, which lasts until cancelled.
I'm thinking something like "Stormtouched", which looks like they're charging up with electricity when it's cast, and improves all threat caused by something like 60-90%, subject to balance with other tank classes. Not exactly fitting with the earlier mentioned cold theme, though, but fits with the general shaman feel.
TauntsAll tank classes have a single-target taunt with 30 yards range and 8 sec cooldown. They also have a glyph which increases the chances for the taunt to land by 8%. They are all identical, except that the paladin variant causes some damage modified by attack power. Awfully handy, by the way.
In addition, every tank class have a secondary taunt or taunt-like ability, on another cooldown. Warriors have Challenging Shout and druids have Challenging Roar. The two abilities are practically identical except for the rage cost, and taunts all enemies in 10 sec radius, in addition to forcing them to attack you for 6 seconds on a 3 min cooldown. Paladins have Righteous Defense which taunts up to three mobs targeting a friendly ally. Almost always macroed to use the target's target (your ally) as the recipent of the spell, so you can cast it on a mob. Death Knights have Death Grip, which forces an enemy to attack you for 3 sec.
Taunt and "forcing someone to attack you" are slightly different things. The first gives you threat on the enemy equal to the highest threat of whatever the monster has on it's list, and the other merely forces them to attack you without modifying threat, so it's highly likely that they mob will attack someone else when the "forced target" period is over unless you were already high on threat. All threats also have a "forced target" period, usually 3 seconds unless otherwise noted.
Shamans would need a 8 sec cooldown taunt spell. No idea of name for this one.
All shamans have access to Earth Elemental, which is kind of a long cooldown very unique threat.
As for a secondary threat, I don't know right now. It can't be any ability that you use as part of rotation, or you can't offtank. Something unique would be cool, too. I haven't come up with any concept I really like yet.
SurvivabilityWhen the tank has established aggro, the next step is to make sure he survives it.
Armor and crittabilityWhen a shaman equips a shield, they get a decent amount of armor. They're still lacking a bit to get to plate levels. A very simple fix here to bring them up to warrior and paladin level is to have Stormtouched increase armor on mail, leather and cloth items by X percent, where X is (plate armor) / (mail armor) coefficients. It should also make the shaman immune to crit from creatuers. This has the problem that you want to be Stormtouched all the time in PVP.
To counter that, you could add a damage reducer such as the -5% damage done that Defensive stance packs. In that way, it becomes a trade-off in the same way as using various presences are. You can PVP in frost presence and have additional damage reduction, but only at a cost. However, resto shamans don't suffer much from that. While that may be okay (resto shamans aren't the most durable in the world of PVP healers, they might use a buff) you could instead attach a -10% crit chance or -10% haste chance to the talent. Now, that would certianly be felt. If you attach negative haste, no shaman would ever use it in PVP. If you attach negative crit chance, some might still use it, but that would sort of be okay. They're now a slightly more defensive hybrid.
Flat damage reductionThe other tanking classes all have some flat damage reduction on their tank-ability, with the exception of paladins who must talent for it. The same solution could be used here: Stormtouched could be talented (deep enhancment) to add up to 6 or 8% flat damage reduction, perhaps more.
AvoidanceShamans can block, parry and dodge already. However, all the other tanking classes has higher than normal levels. Druids scale with agility, and recieve extra dodge from it too. Death Knights gain additional chance to parry from strength. Paladins block 65% of all incoming attacks from talents alone when Redoubt and Holy Shield is up. Warriors can block extra on demand, and sometimes twice as much as normal.
Since Shamans would also scale with agility, they would already be getting higher dodge levels than normal. Unlike druids, they can parry and block, so they would most likely not need any extra avoidance like druids get extra dodge from agility.
Attack speed reductionShamans can get the same attack speed reduction that other tanks get. Earth Shock provides 10% attack speed reduction, and Earthen Power provides an addition 10% for 20% attack speed reduction. It can only be used on a single target, but the same applies to a paladin's judgement which is also an attack speed reduction when talented in Judgements of the Just.
However, the problem is that Frost Shock and Earth Shock are on the same cooldown, so you'd have to choose between attack speed reduction and threat. A fix here might be to allow Frost Shock to provide the same attack speed reduction as Earth Shock, in addition to higher threat. It might also just work to keep them seperate, then requiring the tank to first apply Earth Shock to get the attack speed reduction and afterwards Frost Shock to get threat, provided the attack speed reduction lasted pretty long. At least 18 sec or something.
Compromising like that between threat and survivability is not a very good design, though. No other tank classes (as far as I can think of) has to do that. Compromising between single- or AoE threat is okay, though.
The 20% speed reduction would have to be attached to any ability that that is part of the normal tank rotation.
Emergency buttonsShamans already have one emergency button, Shamanistic Rage on a 1 min cooldown. It can be kept like it is, though 30% damage reduction for 15 sec on a 1 min cd might be bordering overpowered. They would, however, need one more tank CD, which should not be so powerful that it will upset PVP balance. To balance PVP, the shamanistic rage could be reduced to 20%, and you could have one additional ability on a longer cooldown which could overlap with the other if necessary.
However, they do have another cooldown. Feral Spirit. It provides some healing done to the shaman. However, health received like that doesn't scale good enough to be useful in a serious tanking situation, so it would have to have another ability attached, like increasing healing received. However, there are some designs issues with that. It's a reason the original feral druid talent Berserk was split into two different spells; one which could be used to increase threat and another which increase health (Survival Instincts). You want to be able to use threat cooldowns (increase threat) without having to blow a survivability cooldown so they're available later.
Feral Spirit could, however, be modified to be a threat cooldown. Simply add to it; "the threat caused by the wolves is applied to the shaman if he is Stormtouched". Since the healing is based on AP, it would heal less for a tank than for a dps. All the tank classes also have some way of getting health back on a long cooldown (Warrior: Enraged Regeneration, Druid: Frenzied Regeneration, Paladin: Lay on Hands, Death Knight: Death Pact), so this would be the shaman way.
So, another ability should be added. Powerful enough to be useful, and not so powerful it upsets PVP completely. In addition, it's an advantage if it's a bit unique.
Other tanks have:
- Reduced damage taken on demand cooldowns : Lots. Shamans already have Shamanistic Rage, so it would be a bad idea to add another ability like it.
- Reduced damage taken on low health : Will of the Necropolis, Ardent Defender.
- Increased health cooldowns : Last Stand, Survival Instincts and Vampiric Blood.
- Increased healing recieved cooldowns : Vampiric Blood, glyphed Frenzied Regeneration.
Something unique would be cool. Can't think of anyting right now, though. Could be something with totems, but it would also have to work on the run. What about an ability that delays 30% of the damage? At least unique, but would be hellish for the programmers to fix.
Resources vs cooldownsLike a paladin, a shaman would have to have his abilities mainly limited by cooldowns, since it's a bad idea to design a tank around going oom all the time.
ManaAgain like a paladin, a shaman would need some way of reliably generating mana all the time. Hitting with Improved Stormstrike isn't good enough, as you can't demand a tank to have enough hit to reliable connect each time. It's tricky to design some way of regenerating mana that isn't too limiting and at the same time not too powerful, and hardest of all, make it scale and work both when the shaman is low- or high-geared for the content he's working on.
Water Shield is fairly reliable for low-geared stuff, but scales negatively with aviodance. The amount would probably have to be increased, though. Besides, I've also toyed with the idea of a new type of shield like lightning and water, Ice shield for tanking. I also think that 'mental shamans should get a new type of shield, like Magma/Lava/Flame/Molten shield.
A suggestion here is to allow Stormtouched (possibly talented) to also grant mana when damaged by direct damage or cleave abilities. Not AoE abilities. To avoid it being abused for healing. If you get aggro, you've got bigger trouble than your mana pool, and in healer gear even stormtouched you're not tough enough to tank serious stuff. It can grant the same amount as Spiritual Attunment, or perhaps slightly more since it's a bit more limiting.
But, granting mana only when you take damage means you'll be constantly mana-starved when you're tanking stuff you're overgeared for. So, you also need an ability which scales with your avoidance. I suggest adding the same benefit of Blessing of Sanctuary, gain 2% mana on dodge, block or parry, to either Stormtouched or Ice shield through talents. You might also add a 3% less damage taken passive ability to Stormtouched through talents, exclusive with Blessing of Sanctuary, so you don't have to buff shamans with Sanctuary at all. After all, since they scale with Agility, they will want Kings.
Now, you can choose to use Water Shield for tanking. It should be like a paladin using Seal of Wisdom: Handy in some cases like when you're overgearing stuff, but strictly unecessary for tanking stuff of your gear level or higher.
Spells and talentsLooking at exisiting abilities and how they can be used in tanking:
(Frost) ShockShocks, in particularly frost shock, should be a major part of the rotation, every 6 second. It should also be possible for some benefit (like a druid taking Improved Mangle) to take Reverbation, but only give arbitrary benefit. In effect: It's one valid choice among several, not a ton better for getting max threat.
The downside of Frost Shock is that it is a spell, and thus uses spell hit rather than melee hit. A talent or glyph might add 9% hit to Frost Shock (or some other number), making it require only the normal melee hit to reliably hit.
StormstrikeStormstrike should be a major part of the rotation, every 10 sec. Since Stormstrike does more damage with slower weapons, I've given that special regard in the Itemization section below. The +nature damage taken debuff doesn't give any benefit to the shaman tank rotation I've imagined, so there should be a secondary benefit to it. Since you still want dps enhancement shamans to focus on nature damage, one suggestion is to allow the next 4 frost attacks you deal to it to yield 20% higher threat.
Fire NovaFire nova would most likely be a major part of the rotation. 10 sec base cooldown, 8 sec glyphed. It should not provide so much threat increase to the rotation that you *have* to glyph it. However, it's not enough in itself to hold AoE threat, so some other ability would also be required.
Magma totemMagma totem, as far as I know, has it's own threat table, making it useless to gain threat while tanking. It could be changed when you use it with Stormtouched, but I think it's a better idea to leave it as it is. If you require it as a part of a rotation, you need to have a massive mana gain somewhere (since it's very expensive) and effectively say that "shaman tanks never buff spellpower with Flametongue totem". I'd rather keep it as it is now. You could still throw it down to help dps, but it's doesn't help you from a threat perspective.
Lava LashLava Lash should remain only usable with an off-hand weapon, and should thus not be a part of the tank rotation.
Wind ShearWind Shear need to get the part about "reduces threat" removed when it's used while Stormtouched.
New spell: Ice ShieldI'm thinking of adding a new type of tanking shield. It can last as long as the other shields, but since you will be taking damage a lot more often, it will need to be refreshened much more often. It should still be mana-free, so there's no problem refreshening it before it has run out except spending a GCD. With 4 charges it, it will last a minimum of 6 seconds with an internal 2 sec cooldown.
A question is whether it should also trigger on other stuff than just getting hit. For example: It can be added to the existing talent Static Shock that you can also expend charges of Ice Shield when hitting the enemy, but that no more than one orb can be expended every 2 sec for any reason. This to make sure it lasts at least 6 seconds, and thus can be a part of a rotation.
Now, the question is how you fix it's damage. It must generally be worse than Lightning Shield for dps, except in special circuimstances. However, if it's worse than Lightning Shield for dps (and thus threat), why would tanks use it?
I've got some ideas. One is to make it cause AoE damage when a charge is expended. The damage could be 1/3th of Lightning Shield, making it better in just some circuimstances for dps. Also recall that Lightning Shield is further buffed by the Stormstrike debuff. Then many tanks would use LS for single-target fights and IS for multiple-target.
Another idea is to attach some minor defensive benefit to it, like holy shield improves block chance. That would make every single shaman tank use it for almost all purposes. For example 5% less damage taken (like Blade Barrier).
Yet another idea is to simply say that it produces high threat, so that the threat produced exceeds Lightning Shield even on single-target fights.
New spell: IcicleYou also need at least one more spell to get a proper rotation. There are several ways to think around this one, but I've got a proposal.
Icicle could be a baseline spell, meaning all shamans get it. It has no cooldown. It should be mainly used for tanking (and perhaps resto soloing). The base damage is low, so that it has lower priority in regard to threat than Stormstrike, Frost Shock and Ice Shield.
It should have a debuff of some kind, and the best would be to allow the debuff to stack up to five. I'm thinking Lacerate, a damage dot stacking up to 5. Shamans already have a ton of utility, they don't need one more buff to bring along. However, to avoid it to become a part of Enhancement rotation, it can be used only while you're wearing a shield. Think about it as "cause your shield to sprout icicles at your target".
I'm thinking it should also work with Maelstrom weapon. The problem is that maelstrom weapon requires you to stack it up to full (5) before you cast Lightning Bolt / Chain Lightning, otherwise you start casting (even fast), which resets your current swing timer and reduces avoidance to 0 for it's duration. That would make for a very steep learning curve for any newbie shammy tank.
I suggest that it works like this: Icicle consumes Maelstrom Weapon, and causes X damage to all enemies within 10 yards for each buff in the maelstrom stack. It scales lineary. That means that you don't lose any dps (AoE or otherwise) by using a stack early (in fact, that's the main use), you don't get any special benefit by waiting until it's stacked up to 5, and you will loose dps and threat if you don't use it when it's at a full stack.
This also have a secondary benefit: Since Icicle is used relatively often in the rotation, you clear the maelstrom charges very often. This prevents the tank from using Maelstrom weapon to heal himself a lot, unless he's willing to sacrifice a lot of threat for it. Even saving up and using heals to keep yourself up, it will be a veeeery minor increase in incoming heals on any raid encounter.
Weapon enchantsYou could have the shaman use the normal temporary weapon enchants (Windfury or Frostbrand and Flametongue, perhaps), or create specific tanking temporary weapon enchants. Not thought much about it.
Initial threatA shaman can use Chain Lightning to gain some initial threat on up to three mobs, Lighting Bolt and Frost Shock for a single mob. They might have problems generating initial AoE threat like a warrior using Thunder Clap and Shockwave, a druid using Swipe and a death knight using Death and Decay or Howling Blast. However, paladins have a bit of the same problem; Their AoE threat rocks, but it has a slight ramp-up time. Shamans would be able to use Fire Nova for their initial AoE threat, and then rely on Icicle / Maelstrom Weapon slash AoE and Ice shield.
RotationThe rotation priority would be something like:
- Keep up Ice Shield, 6s+ "CD"
- Icicle if at full stack of Maelstrom Weapon
- Stormstrike, 10s CD
- Frost Shock, 5-6s CD
- Fire Nova, 8-10s CD
- Refresh Ice Shield if it's low on charges, to avoid several some CD refreshing at the same moment that Ice Shield fades
- Icicle otherwise
Might need some adjustement, but something along those lines. You could also argue that you would want to Icicle a lot early to get up stacks. Same thoughts as for druid tanking: Handy, but threat is usually better by using Faerie Fire (feral) and Mangle on every cooldown.
Other stuffOther thoughts I came up with while comparing tanks.
Gap closer?Druids and warriors have various abilities to get into melee fast, gap closers. Death Knights have a reverse gap closer, brigning the enemy to them instead. Paladins don't have that, which might be why their normal taunt deals damage. Shamans can probably also work fine without a gap closer. The problem is that you don't want to make Enhancement shamans too sticky in PVP, they are already relatively sticky. While it would rock with another pull like Death Grip, it's probably not necessary.
UtilityShamans have a ton of utility already. No reason not to bring them along for their lack of utility.
DpsAs noted above, a shaman tank would have to be lower on dps than their dps friends in the enhancement business. Part of this is solved by having to compromise talents like feral druids too, another is to simply make them use a single weapon and shield instead of dual-wielding. Might just do the trick. If you attack the -10% haste or crit, it helps even more.
ItemizationShamans can't equip swords, a very commonly used tank weapon. They also derive no benefit from Strength, which all the plate classes do. Druids have their own weapons.
I propose balancing shamans around tanking with a +agility, slow dps weapon. Two reasons for that. First, it provides better damage = more threat on Stormstrike. Second, you don't want to have to add even more weapons into the game, in particularly not weapons that only a single sub-spec will put to use. So, to close the gap tanking weapons provide, you'll have to add some ability, talent or glyph that provides a shaman with the necessary stats to close the gap since he's not using a tank weapon. Death Knights, which are balanced around tanking with dps weapons, have Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle (2-handed weapons) and Rune of the Nerubian Carapace (1-handed weapons) for that purpose. It could be a temporary weapon enchant for shamans, but I don't see any reaons why you don't want them to use the normal weapon enchants.
I'm crazy, right?Why did I write all this?
It was a fun thought experiment, and allowed me to think throughly about what makes or breaks a tank.
I don't think it'll be implemented for Cataclysm. It's probably too late in the design process for Blizz, and the chances that some Blizz employee will read this post and totally fall in love with the idea is very low. The chances that said emplyee will actually put it into Cataclysm is even lower, hovering around winning the national lottery.
But... it was fun. And admit it, it would be completely awesome. Thrall can tank (Battle for Undercity), every shaman should be allowed to share that fun!
[EDIT] I've written a follow-up post, after all the comments on this topic.