Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I'll be taking a break from WoW and blogging until after Easter. Just letting you know.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pally vs DK tanking

...and to a lesser extent, druid tanking. I've tanked a lot of instances on my way to 80 with my paladin. While some things change when you go from taking "normal" instances to heroics and raids, the general "feel" of the class remains the same. The way you tank. The rotation. And to some degree, whether you like it or not. If you hate your tanking class in raids, chances are rather overwhelming you hate your tanking class in 5-mans too, and the other way around.

Now, assuming you like to tank, you should also be comfortable with the tools for the job. The four tanking classes each tank in a different way. If you don't like the way your tanking class tanks, you're probably not going to perform as well as you could otherwise. I don't like the current implementation of druid tanking, and I'm fairly certain I became a better tank when I switched to my DK for tanking instead.

I won't say anything about effective health, and very little about mitigation and avoidance. This post is not aimed towards the all-high elitists who will switch tanking class if the other has 5% more effective health or whatever. Besides, I lack the time to invest into the theorycrafting necessary for that kind of analysis, and the experience to be able to talk from an empirical point of view.


Resource management

I assume you have a basic understanding of the resource systems available in WoW. But, veeery quickly; DKs have a dual-resource system of runes and runic power. Most abilities cost one or more runes. Each rune expended will refresh itself after 10 sec, sometimes less. All rune attacks generate runic power. Some abilities cost runic power to activate.

Because of the nature of the runes and runic power, DKs have the exact same resources available to them no matter what kind of content they're tanking.

Paladins use mana as their resource. No tanking gear has intellect on it, so a paladin only has the base mana pool of their class, modified by Arcane Intellect, Mark of the Wild and Blessing of Kings, depending on the raid setup. They burn through mana rather quicly, and have a three major ways to regain it. First, they regain mana constantly with Divine Plea, which with talents have a constant uptime as long as you're fighting. It is affected by int buffs. Second, they regain mana when they block, dodge or parry an attack, as long as they've buffed themselves with Blessing of Sanctuary. Since it also grants -3% damage taken, it's a very bad idea not to buff yourself with it when tanking. Third, they regain mana by being healed.

The mana gained from Divine Plea is near constant, no matter what content you're facing. It's only affected by buffs, so usually a bit higher in raids than in 5-mans because the chances that there's a mage, druid, and several paladins increase the more people there are. The mana gained from Blessing of Sanctuary is much higher when tanking multiple mobs than a single mob. It is about the same when facing a single raid boss and a single 5-man boss. The mana gained from being healed depend on how much healing you need, so it is much higher in raids than it is in 5-mans.

Druids (and warriors) have a rage system which generates rage on hitting and being hit, and depend on how much damage they take. Thus, they generate a lot more rage in raids than in 5-mans.

It seems to me that Paladins are balanced around having infinite amount of mana available, and druids and warriors are balanced around having infinite amount of rage available, when it comes to raids. Unfortunately, it means that sometimes the three tank classes will go around mana/rage-starved in 5-mans, especially if they're overgearing the content. Less problem now than what it was, but it's not unheard of of paladin tanks to take off some of their armor when tanking 5-mans, to regain enough mana to get the job done. Ever seen a pants-less paladin? Not to be confused with a pantsy paladin.

Resources vs cooldowns

The nature of the rune system means DKs can't spam the same attack times and again. They will (in most cases) run out of at least one type of rune after 2 consequensive attacks. That means that their rotation is primarily limited by the resources, namely the runes, and almost no attack used in their rotation has a cooldown. There is one notable exception: Death and Decay has a cooldown. It's rather annoying, too, in my opinion, because the minimum cooldown of 15 sec talented doesn't fit with the 10 sec rune cooldown, meaning you have to hold back some runes if you want to cast it on every cooldown. A "simple" fix would be to use it every 20 sec instead of every 15 sec, but sometimes (like Halls of Reflection) you need it RIGHT NOW.

On the other hand, both a rage and a mana system allows a character to hit the same attack several times in a row. In fact, were it not for cooldowns, most tanks would be spamming the highest-threat ability all the time. Imagine a tank spamming Thunderclap or a paladin spamming Hammer of the Righteous against AoE packs. To avoid that, all of a paladin's attacks have a cooldown attached to it. As far as I've understood, the ability is put on cooldown even if the attacks fails to connect. In most cases, a paladin tank just have to worry about managing these cooldowns with a proper rotation, and can safely ignore the mana issue. However, tanking low-level stuff and content you overgear tends to make you bang your head into the keyboard for lack of mana all the time.

Druids (and warriors) have a similar design, however, both have a "basic attack" they can spam to no end (Sunder Armor / Lacerate). All other attacks have cooldowns. To avoid tanks spamming their basic attack all the time, all other attacks available to these tanks generate higher threat, and should be prioritized.


Paladins, with their cooldown-based tanking system, have a true rotation, dubbed 96969. It comes from the fact that if you use the abilities in the wrong order, you end up having no abilities not on cooldown somtimes, while at other times several abilities refresh from cooldown at the same time. To avoid that, you alternate between six-second cooldown moves (Hammer of the Righteous and Shield of the Righteous) and nine-second cooldown moves (Holy Shield, Consecration and Judgement). There are no real nine-second cooldown abilities, all the mentioned have 8 sec (talented) CDs. However, if you alternate these with the six-cooldown moves, you generate max threat, and they sort of "work" like they were on a 9-second cooldown each.

The rotation is so strict that you could create a macro for it. However, any tank worth his or her salt should do it manually, because the various attacks have different priority depending on the situation. For example: Hammer of the Rigtheous hits several targets, and should be earlier in the rotation than Shield of the Righteous against multiple enemies. However, against a single enemy, SotR outthreats HotR. And so on.

Druids can also have a true rotation, at least on single target fights. Highest priority is... Feral Faerie fire, ironically enough. At least last time I checked, it provided the most threat, and for the cheapest price... for free. But most use Mangle, which activates some idols and applies the debuff. All free global cooldowns should be filled with Lacerate.

If you don't put talents into Mangle, the rotation is simple; Faerie fire, Mangle, Lacerate, Lacerate. If you put talents into Mangle, there is no longer a rotation, but a priority queue: Mangle on every cooldown, Faerie fire if it's up, otherwise Lacerate. Reason: If you give priority to Faerie Fire then Mangle, both will come off cooldown the same moment, so you don't get any benefit from talenting Mangle at all. Macro Maul to activate on all the mentioned attacks.

On AoE fights, you just hit Swipe every global cooldown. If you have a single mob you need to keep sticking to you, mix in a Faerie Fire, Mangle, or both, betwen the Swipes. That makes them different from paladins: They need to choose either to generate max single target threat or some AoE threat. Paladins just use the same rotation regardless of whatever is hitting you, with the possible exception of adding Holy Wrath against multiple undead or demon mobs.

A DK doesn't have a true rotation. "True" as in you know what button you're going to hit every global cooldown. They have more of a priority system. Knowing what to hit every GCD is a matter of knowing how your abilities interact with each other, assessing the current situation, and knowning what resources you have available... in effect, which runes are off cooldown. I'm not planning to write a "DK tanking 101" now, if you want more details, have a look at Gravity's excellent site pwnwear.com.

The short version is that you have a priority like this:
  1. Keep diseses up on all mobs.
  2. Spend your runs whenever they come off cooldown to generate as much threat as possible, on the targets you want threat on. That's a bit messily written, easier with an example. Let's say a blood rune comes off cooldown. Do I want to spend it immediately on single-target threat (Blood or Heart Strike, depending on spec), AoE threat (Blood Boil), wait for a frost and unholy rune to throw down a lot of AoE threat (Death and Decay), or refresh diseases on all off-targets to avoid them falling off (Pestilence)?
  3. If all runes are on cooldown, spend Runic Power, but only if I have enough to spare that I won't be starved when I need Runic Strikes.

Runic strike deserves a special note. It is not an instant attack, but an "on-next-melee-hit" ability, like Maul and Heroic Strike. It's usually macroed to every single attack, for ease of convenience. I think it was designed to let DK tanks put their spare runic power to good use, rather than just let their runic power be capped at 100% all the time. Unlike dps, a DK tank's rotation must be adjusted to whether they hit or not. Many aren't hit capped, and even if they are, bosses parry, dodge and block a lot of attacks from the front. Since rune attacks have higher priority (since they do more damage) than runic power attacks, DK tanks don't usually have any GCDs to spare to use runic power attacks at all. Anyway, no matter what the original design was, Runic Strike is vital to generate max threat, and should be used as often as possible.

When I explain it like this, DK tanking sounds really hard. It is certianly harder than druid tanking, but then again, bear tanking rotation is so easy it's trivial (flame me a comment if you disagree). Any addon that shows the status for each rune will make the job a lot easier. I can't say if it's harder than the paladin rotation or not. For the moment, I've got far too much training in DK tanking and far too little in paladin tanking. I find DK tanking to be really "logical". At least after it was cleaned up, each DK ability has it's spesific use, and it's woven really well together. Compare that to paladin, which is much more "brute-force"; No abilities depend on each other to do increase threat, like most of a DKs abilities depend on having the diseases on a target. You just hit the attacks in the order of whoever generates the most threat, with the notable exception that Holy Shield has highest priority because it also adds in mitigating incoming damage.

Keep it up, buddy

All the tanks have some abilities that must be "kept up" in some way.

A DK needs to keep up diseases on all mobs all tanked mobs all the time. Besides threat, it provides the -20% attack speed debuff that reduces incoming damage. In addition, they need to keep up Blade Barrier all the time, a talent that reduces all incoming damage by 5%. Keeping it up is actually really easy; Just spend runes. The buff is refreshened each time all blood runes (and death runes from the same blood runes) are on cooldown. So if you just attack more or less normally, it will be up almost all the time.

A paladin must first and foremost keep up Holy Shield, to increase both threat generated and mitigation. In addition, they want to keep up Divine Plea as much as possible, since it provides them with mana and -3% damage taken glyphed. It is a bit special; as long as they're hitting something, it's up. It fades if not fighting for 15 seconds, but can be buffed up again immidiately again if it's been at least 1 min since it was last "started". In practice, on boss fights there is very little a paladin can do to prevent it from running out if there's a break in the fight. Finally, to generate max threat and dps, they want to keep up the stack of Vengeance from Seal of Vengeance/Corruption all the time. However, as with Divine Plea, there is very little they can do to prevent it from falling off whenever the boss is not in melee range, such as when it's flying, submerged, the tank needs to run away, etc. They also want to keep up Vindication, but it's virtually impossible not to keep up as long as you're fighting a mob.

A druid must keep up Demoralizing Roar by refreshing it every 30 sec or more often. They also want to keep up Faerie Fire and the Mangle debuff to increase threat and dps for all physical dps in the raid. Both are pretty easy to keep up, as they're a part of the core rotation. Soon, it'll even be even easier since Mangle will last for an entire minute in the next patch. Finally, they want, to a lesser degree, to keep up Lacerate. While it's handy for personal dps, it's not deprimental to threat if they lose it, as the instant portion of Lacerate generates a ton of extra threat, while each tick of Lacreate generates 80% less threat than the damage should imply. Thus, it's sort of "handy to keep up", but not vital.


It's of course vital that a tank can keep aggro when he wants to. Short version, if they're doing their job correctly, any tank can hold aggro. If they can't, then they're doing something wrong, or Blizz will most likely buff them very soon. However, there are some notes on differences in how they generate threat.

Mobile threat-generation

Druids have no "stationary" way of generating threat. They can move and generate full threat, provided they remain in range of their targets all the time.

DKs have one stationary threat move, Death and Decay. It's a more or less vital part of the initial pull on multiple mobs, but it's not vital after that. As long as they've got diseases ticking on all mobs, they're pretty mobile as well. Most DKs doesn't use Death and Decay after the initial pull, instead spending runes on Blood Boil because they don't have to "save" runes to wait for one rune of each type to be ready.

Paladins have a very stationary threat move, Consecration. In addition to being stationary, it is always cast on the feet of the paladin, as opposed to Death and Decay which can be targetted on the ground anywhere within range. To make matters worse, it has a pitifully low radius. And finally, it's the only way a paladin has to generate guaranteed threat on more than 4 targets. The other three ways of generating AoE threat have limited targets. Hammer of the Rigtheous is limited to the primary target and 2 (or 3, glyphed) more targets, which seems to be picked semi-randomly from the close mobs by the server. Avenger's shield works on the exact same principle. Holy Shield requires a mob to actually hit you when you're blocking, and there's no way to guarantee that a given mob will hit you often enough that it will remain on you. Good thing for them that paladins have so much taunting power. More on that in a moment.

"Your mother!"

All the tanks have a single-target taunt on a 8 second cooldown. The paladin version is notable for also generating a fair bit of damage (around 1-2k on a new 80), meaning it's much more likely that the mob will stick to you.

In addition, a druid has Challenging Roar, which taunts all mobs within 10 feet and sticks them to you for 6 seconds, on a 3 min cooldown. Very powerful stuff. 6 seconds is half an eternity in a crisis situation. Warriors have the exact same ability.

Paladins also have another taunt on a 8 sec cooldown, Righteous Defense. Instead of taunting a mob, it taunts up to three mobs targetting the friendly unit you target. Use it with a macro and target=targettarget, and it taunts the selected mob and up to 2 others targetting the same ally. Incredibly handy. On the other hand, since a paladin tank usually isn't hit capped, they often need it to guarantee a tank switch will go smoothly.

Death Knights doesn't have a secondary taunt, but they have a "force enemy to focus on you for 3 sec" with their Death Grip. In a way, the DKs get the short end of the stick here. I haven't felt it was a huge disadvantage when tanking, though. Of course, it's more important when things *not* go smoothly.

Tanking cooldowns

Tanking cooldowns generally comes in two variants; cooldowns that increase your threat generation and cooldowns that in some way increase your chances of surviving.

Druids have one threat generation cooldown, Berserk. It also doubles as a short fear breaker/immunity on a long cooldown. Mangle looses it cooldown and hits three targets for the duration. Nothing can ever hope to catch you on threat again after you've spammed 10 mangles on a mob.

They have three cooldowns, Barkskin on a 1 min which reduces incoming damage by 20%. Survival Instincts which glyphed increase your max health by a whopping 45%. Cutting-edge bears can hit almost 100k health with his up. Finally, Frenzied Regeneration which converts rage to health. More importantly, glyphed it increase all healing received by 20%.

The druid survival cooldowns feel fairly powerful. They can overlap each other, resulting in a huge survivability increase for a short duration. In particular, I very often combine the latter two while tanking, while I use Barkskin almost every cooldown just to reduce general incoming damage.

Paladins have one threat generation cooldown, namely their pretty wings Avenging Wrath. You might also count Avenging Wrath as a mini-threat cooldown. Their wings increase all damage (and thus threat) by 20%. Besides looking pretty on screenshots (and very unpaladinish, imo) they're really handy for pulling far away on the threatmeters fast.

On the flip side of the coin, paladins have only two real defensive tanking cooldowns unless you spec a bit strangely into the Holy tree. First, they got an active cooldown in Divine Protection. -50% damage taken on a 2 min cooldown. Pretty powerful. HOWEVER, it may not be used within 30 sec of Avenging Wrath, or within 2 min of using Divine Shield or Lay on Hands on yourself. That's kinda annoying. That means you can't freely use Avenging Wrath when you want/need to generate extra threat, you got to know the fight and only throw it if you know you won't be needing Divine Protection for the next 30 seconds. I know that this is because of PVP balance, but I still think it's a bad design.

You can, as earlier mentioned, use Lay on Hands and Divine Shield too, but all three are exclusive with each other because of a 2 min Foreberance debuff. Lay on Hands might be more powerful against weak mobs that doesn't damage you too much, but Divine Protection will almost always trumph it in raids. With the very strange but possible exception that you're low on mana and need Lay on Hands to recover some of your own mana. You can also use Divine Shield, but while it redmoves all incoming damage, it also means that you have an effective threat score of 0 for the duration of it. The only thing that persists through it is "force to attack" abilities. There is one notable way to use it; since it always clears all debuffs without any chance of failure, you can taunt a mob (stick it to you for 3 sec) cast Divine Shield and immidiately cancel the shield (using a macro with /cancelaura). Now you're debuff free, and the mob is still on you. However, you can't use Divine Protection for 2 min. There aren't too many cases where it's worth it.

The other "real" defensive cooldown is the Ardent Defender. It is passive. In addition to reducing all damage taken while at low health, it allows you to survive certain death and recover half your health once every 2 min. It is powerful. It translates to having a health pool at least 1.5 times your size on a 3 min cooldown. However, it's also a last resort thing; You can depend on it, but you (almost) never intentionally use it.

To be fair, they also have some other abilities. Divine Guardian reduces the damage taken by the entire raid by 20% for 6 seconds, but also moves 30% of all the remaining damage to you. It breaks when you're at 20%. The "breaks at 20%" allows it to be used while tanking, whoever it's still risky. While the entire raid may be taking more damage, you may end up taking more. And while you have Ardent Defender to fall back on, it's never a good idea for a tank to intentionally be reduced to 20%.

They can also spend talents to get Aura Mastery or Improved Lay on Hands in Holy. The first can give them a short armor or resistance boost, depending on what aura they're currently using, but it's nothing spectacular. The other will allow them to take -20% physical damage for a period, but causes Forebereance like a normal LoH does, so then you get that and the normal effects of LoH instead of Divine Protection. Finally, they can glyph Hand of Salvation to make themselves take 20% less damage for a short period. That *is* handy, however, you also get the normal effects of salvation, -10% threat. Not so good thing, especially not on threat-sensitive fights like those where two tanks taunt the boss off each other regularly.

I didn't like the set of defensive cooldown a protection paladin has. It feels ... too few. Only one emergency button to hit. While Ardent Defender is really dependable, it's not so overpowering that pallies don't need anything else.

Now, DKs. Cooldowns a-plenty, as mentioned earlier. Quickly going through the list: Icebound Fortitude for some 50%ish damage reduction. A 1-min CD talent depending on what tree said DK is specced into (Unbreakable Armor = more armor, Bone Shield = less damage taken, or Vampiric Blood = health and incoming healing increased). Another talented CD for two of three trees (Anti-Magic Zone or Rune Tap). Raise Dead + Death Pact to instantly heal 40%. Anti-Magic Shell to greatly reduce incoming damage on a 45 sec cooldown, also hindering application of any magic debuff. To a lesser extent Army of the Dead, the act of summoning them grans damage reduction for a short while, usable against spell and unavoidable damage. They can also Death Strike like crazy to heal themselves, often paired with Empower Rune Weapon. ERW can also be used as an offensive cooldown.

The army is a very interesting ability, as it taunts everything BUT raid bosses. It increases your dps, but not your threat. Same with Summon Ghoul.

DKs have a huge toolbox of cooldowns. I love having all the tools available. Not all of them are very handy for raids, but most of them are. My personal all-time high favorite is Anti-Magic Shell, a skill I sorely miss if I'm on any other tank than my DK.

Mitigation and avoidance

A few words on this topic too. Though, a lot will change with Cataclysm.

Paladins block a lot. Usually at least 65% from talents alone. They also parry and dodge some attacks.

Death knights parry a lot. Usually around the same amount they dodge, somewhere around 20% or higher. They can also dodge, but not block.

Druids dodge a lot. Usually more than 40% of the time. They can't parry or block.

Kick, or we wipe!

Paladins lack any true spell-interrupt. What is a true spell-interrupt? An ability that's off the global cooldown and that spesifically interrupt spells. They can interrupt with Hammer of Justice or Avenger's Shield, but both are on the global cooldown, making them harder to time properly. As a blood elf, however, I get Arcane Torrent which interrupts off the global cooldown.

Druids have only a ranged interrupt, Feral Charge. Since you spend most of your time in melee range, you have only Bash, a 1-min CD stun to interrupt spells with.

Death Knights have a true interrupt, Mind Freeze, on a 10 sec cooldown. They also have a silence which can be used to interrupt, Strangulate. The latter even has a range. Most handy.

Interrupts are not vital for raids, as you will (almost) always have someone else available who can do the job. However, it is most handy for 5-mans and some raid bosses.

AP debuff

For some reason, Death Knights are the only class without an AP debuffs. Why? Beats me. Vindication and Demoralizing Roar do the trick for paladins and druids.

Poison? Magic? Disease? Mohaha, I'm a pally!

Paladins have the special ability to cleanse themselves of a lot of debuffs while tanking. At the cost of some threat. Like interrupts, very handy for 5-mans, less so for raids.


You probably know what classes bring which buffs. If you're lazy, Death Knights have the easiest to apply buff, Horn of Winter. Whereas you must be expected to bring reagents and buff people randomly dying as a druid or paladin.

Which buffs are more powerful? I'm not going to say a lot about that. In a raid, you're almost certain to have all the buffs anyway.


If you want to tank, find a tank class that you're comfortable with. As you may or may not have noticed, I'm strongly in favor of death knights myself. Find out what you like yourself, if you're going to tank. Test another class if you're not happy with your current.

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?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sins of a speed-leveller

I very recently decided that I wanted to play some with my paladin, to test the healing aspect at 80. I also wanted to get the Honor your Elders meta-achievement with her. It requires level 77 to get into Utgarde Pinnacle and get the elder there.

I played a bit with her, earning a bit XP here and there. If my memory serves me right, she was she was half-way through level 74 last Tuesday, March 2nd. I initially believed that the Lunar Festival would end on Friday, so I thought I had to get her to level 77 and get the instance within that time limit.

She is on another server than my other toons. No heirloom gear granting additional XP or a major dps boost. No flying mount until level 77. Had almost full rested XP, though. At that point, she had a retribution and a protection spec. Will respec on of those to holy, just not sure which one yet.

Enter speedlevelling

I had done every quest in Dragonblight with my other characters already, so I knew where to go. The new Blizz quest interface made it even easier, for the quests I didn't remember exact location of. I tried Carbonite (Addon) at one point, but found out I didn't like it too much.

Questing was incredibly painless as a paladin. The class is practically made for this sort of stuff. Heavy armor translated to fairly little damage taken. Judgement of Light and Divine Storm healed up any damage from even-level non-elites, even groups. And I could use the Art of War procs to heal even more. Nonexistant downtime. Heals between combat if necessary to get up again, even in-combat when necessary. Judgement of the Wise to recover mana. With a glyphed Seal of Command, it was a fairly large amount too. Divine Plea on a mere 1 minute cooldown as well.

But it gets even better! Paladins have no ramp-up dps time when using Seal of Command, and a huge amount of cleave damage. I could solo with ease multiple mobs. Just switched to the least damaged all the time. Crusader Strike cleaved three mobs. Divine Storm hit four. Judgement also cleaved 3, as far as I could see. Using Consecration burned a lot of mana, so I didn't use it all the time, only on several mobs. It hit all of them. And against undead or demon mobs, it was almost silly: Holy Wrath for huge damage and a 3 sec stun on all mobs.

We're not done yet! They have an innate mounted speed increase with Crusader Aura. Some other classes can get it through talents, but usually only for one of their specs. Further, a 15% running speed increase all the time through Pursuit of Justice. And then we haven't mentioned a single cooldown yet. Avenging Wrath for a nice dps increase. Divine Protection to burn through multiple mobs fast without taking too much damage. Divine Shield to play the "can't touch this"-game with the mobs. Lay on Hands to just complete the list of overpowered abilities. Granted, they can no longer burn Lay on Hands, Divine Protection and Divine Shield during the same combat unless it lasts at least 2 min, but even without that they're practically overpowered.

Finally, a protection spec may be inferior for dps compared to Retribution, but completely superior for survivability. I soloed one 3-man quest at my level as Retribution... barely. Died once first, had to really plan the use of cooldowns during that one. For the next one, I opted to try protection instead. "No Art of War," I thought. "Much less healing." Cancel that thought. I took so little damage it was silly, and Judgement of Light kept me topped at all time. So I soloed all other 3-man quests in Dragonblight with ease. The only one that proved some challenge was the magnataur at the end of a chain, but even against him I didn't need a single cooldown, not even Ardent Defender.

A 80 warrior called out for help against the 5-man dragon, so I never got the chance to test my luck against her. It would probably have been a bit much for soloing at the intended level, though.

Bottom line: Overpowered. Not that it's a problem, it's only a minor aspect of the game. However, it was incredibly fast.

Elder Mirlei

By Thursday I had achieved level 77, and finished Utgarde Pinnacle. I got a minor heart-attack when I saw I still didn't get the meta-achivement, but a quick check proved that I lacked the elders in Storm Peaks that require a flying mount to get. Fair enough, that was easy to fix.

Fly faster, you slowpoke

At this point, I slowed a bit down. I had gotten my cold weather flying, but with only 2k gold in my pocket after that, I couldn't afford a flying mount. Thus, I intended to play the auction house game a bit to get earn money for epic flying training with the stuff I had gotten while questing. Mirlei is a skinner and a miner precisely to earn money, so I had a good amount of tradeskill materials to auction away. Will probably make her a blacksmith if I continue to seriously play her. I never bought any equipment or anything at all while levelling.

How long time did it take me to raise the 2.5k gold necessary (total 4.5k gold, with honored discount)? 3 days. I'm not kidding. I never bought anything, just sold. The auctioneer addon, particularly the "Appraiser", helped put things out quickly. I earned 2k gold of the auction house during those 3 days, and the other 500 gold by questing. By sunday evening, I had my epic flier... with literally 8g left across Mirlei and my bank/auctioneering alt left. I had forgotten that the actual mount also costs a bit, 90g honored.

Honor... no, wait, Revere me, baby

As you probably know, Blizz increased the reputation gains on a lot of the Northrend factions in 3.3. By the time I was done in Dragonblight, I was revered with Wyrmrest. Handy. I also gained Revered with Horde Expedition and the Kal'uak, but neither of those was subject to the increased reputation multiplier in 3.3.

Getting reputation with Sons of Hodir was certianly easier. That would mean that it took less time to raise it from Neutral to Exalted, right? Yes, but not only that. You start out as hated and "at war" with them. During the questline with Thorim, you normally gain a ton of reputation, enough to raise it to neutral with the Sons of Hodir. However, this amount of reputation is also increased. During a single day I went from not having Sons of Hodir on my rep bar at all to be revered with them, and it included only a single round of each daily quest available and no trip to Halls of Lightning. Phew! Most handy, I had dreaded having to do the dailies until my brain bleeded again.

I also realized how expensive the reputation-bought gear is. 70 gold at revered, for each of their items. At this point I had just bought my epic flying training and was broke. However, a single round of dailies with the Sons of Hodir yielded almost 150 gold.

Other quests

I also did the questline to take Crusader's Pinacle and the Shadow Vault. In addition, I'm doing the dailies on the Argent Tournament grounds, to at least get to buy the champion gear.

Plans are for pansies

What's the plan now? I had assumed I had to quest a bit more before 80. Do the Onslaught quests in Icecrown. I can still do that, but I don't "need" to anymore. However, I probably will, just because I find it interesting to slaughter the Scarlet fanatics. I'm not really fan of fanatics anywhere else either, and that's not limited to religion. Atheist fanatics also annoy me. In fact, anyone who think they know better than me what I should do with my life.

Back on topic. I will do some heroics until I'm ready to join some pug raids, and then test out paladin healing first-hand. I'm looking forward to the experience. First impression of Sacred Shield: It's fairly neat, but I was really surprised. You don't get the Flash of Light heal over time unless Sacred Shield is actually absorbing damage right now. That means they don't got a "true" on-demand HoT. I'll need more experience before I can tell if that's really a problem.

What else? I'm not sure. I've played too much this last week, averaging 3 hours a day. I want to relax my wow-addiction again. Last night (just after I dinged 80), me and my wife watched the first episode of Samura Champloo. No offense to those that like it, but I think dubbing sucks. Glad I had the DVD and could switch language.

LFG tank, last spot

What about tanking? I have gotten a fair emount of first-hand experience on paladin tanking now. It's certianly different. I want to write a full post on the topic.

Then there's also the post about shaman healing, which I've postponed for a long time.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wish for Cataclysm: Shaman tanks!

I was going to write a post about shamanic healing, but then an idea suddenly popped in my head and I couldn't resist pursuing the thought further.

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.


All 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 Aggro

There is nothing more annoying than joining a group and watch the tank unable to keep aggro on anything at all.


The 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.


All 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.


When the tank has established aggro, the next step is to make sure he survives it.

Armor and crittability

When 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 reduction

The 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.


Shamans 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 reduction

Shamans 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 buttons

Shamans 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 cooldowns

Like 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.


Again 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 talents

Looking at exisiting abilities and how they can be used in tanking:

(Frost) Shock

Shocks, 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.


Stormstrike 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 Nova

Fire 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 totem

Magma 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 Lash

Lava Lash should remain only usable with an off-hand weapon, and should thus not be a part of the tank rotation.

Wind Shear

Wind Shear need to get the part about "reduces threat" removed when it's used while Stormtouched.

New spell: Ice Shield

I'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: Icicle

You 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 enchants

You 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 threat

A 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.


The rotation priority would be something like:
  1. Keep up Ice Shield, 6s+ "CD"
  2. Icicle if at full stack of Maelstrom Weapon
  3. Stormstrike, 10s CD
  4. Frost Shock, 5-6s CD
  5. Fire Nova, 8-10s CD
  6. Refresh Ice Shield if it's low on charges, to avoid several some CD refreshing at the same moment that Ice Shield fades
  7. 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 stuff

Other 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.


Shamans have a ton of utility already. No reason not to bring them along for their lack of utility.


As 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.


Shamans 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.