A very nice paladin player asked me recently about Vengeance. She had concerns about the mechanic, which made me realize that we haven’t done the best job of explaining to players exactly what Vengeance is supposed to accomplish.
Vengeance is a new passive ability gained by choosing one of the tanking talent trees: Protection for warriors and paladins, Blood for death knights, or Feral for druids. When a tank with one of these talent specs takes damage, she gains an attack power bonus based on the damage taken. This bonus can’t exceed 10% of her health.
Vengeance was designed for a single purpose, which is to make sure tank threat scales as other players improve their gear. Imagine a raid of reasonably geared level-85 characters. In the absence of Vengeance, the tank might generate about 50% of the damage of a DPS character. With the tank’s threat modifiers this should be sufficient for her to generate enough threat to keep her targets stuck to her (unless something unusual is going on in the encounter). The problem is that in later tiers the mages and rogues in the raid accumulate gear that continues to increase their damage, while the tank chooses gear that increases her survivability. Tanks will pick up some threat stats along the way, but as their survival is almost always a necessary condition for victory, they choose gear accordingly. In later tiers, instead of doing 50% of the damage of a DPS class, the tank might start to slip to 30% or less of a DPS character's damage. Now threat becomes an issue. Threat needs to be an important part of the game -- I’ll try to explain why we think so in a future blog. However, it isn’t our design intent for threat generation to get much harder in the third tier of content relative to the first.
So that’s what Vengeance is supposed to be. Here is what it’s not supposed to be. Vengeance is not supposed to solve the threat problem completely. A tank shouldn’t be able to just auto-attack and let Vengeance do the rest. Vengeance isn’t a replacement for the tank generating enough initial threat to get the targets to stick to her. She shouldn’t need to rely on Vengeance in the first six seconds of combat. It’s there to prevent the warlock from slowly creeping up on her threat in the middle of the fight. (If this has never happened to your raid, it’s possible that the huge threat transfer potential of the rogue Tricks of the Trade and hunter Misdirection masked how dicey threat really was for you, but those abilities were redesigned for Cataclysm.) In fact, you shouldn’t need Vengeance at all in the first couple of tiers of Cataclysm content. If a lucky dodge streak causes Vengeance to fall off, and that means that you can’t generate enough threat, then either our numbers aren’t tuned correctly, or you need to L2tank.
Vengeance also isn’t supposed to make you scared to attack a tank in PvP. Tanks have enough benefits in PvP, such as being hard to kill and control, especially in Cataclysm when Rated Battlegrounds provide them with a role where they can defend flags or towers. Players generally don’t hit hard enough to trigger the full effect of Vengeance, unless they are all ganging up on one tank, at which point someone in the group should have the ability to dispel it (Vengeance is treated as an Enrage effect for dispel purposes).
Vengeance is a new mechanic, and like many design changes, it may take some tweaking to get right. Maybe it takes too long to stack up or falls off too easily. Maybe it does too much of the tank’s job for her and ends up producing a generation of lazy tanks. Threat is a tricky thing to balance. If it’s too easy to maintain, then the tank isn’t having fun. If it’s too hard to maintain, then nobody is having fun.
Believe it or not, we want tanking to be fun.
Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street is the Lead Systems Designer for World of Warcraft and once killed a dinosaur with a spreadsheet.