Just say no to threat decay

Threat in MMOs is a strange construct. It’s supposed to mimic the way in which a monster decides which of the adventuring party to attack, instead of running away like a sensible creature or just biting people’s heads off. In WoW-like games, the tank usually uses lots of high threat moves on a mob and as long as they stay highest on the threat list, the monster won’t hit at anyone else.

So the object of threat, if you are a tank, is to stay above the rest of your group on as many mobs as possible. If you are not a tank, then your goal is to keep your threat low while doing as much damage/ healing as possible.

Apparently WoW tanks have been slacking off, because one of the developer comments recently was:

On threat, one of the changes we’re considering trying out ((in Cataclysm)) is to have threat decay pretty rapidly. The idea is that a tank should never be able to get so far ahead on threat that they can AFK for the rest of the fight. It might sound like a nerf, but really the intent is to make sure that the tank’s job is never done — that what you do will remain important.

I don’t actually know who these tanks were who put up such high initial threat and then went off for a smoke, but I bet they were paladins. So the answer clearly is just to nerf paladins, which they are doing anyway.

When I’m tanking on my warrior, I never just slack off or AFK for half a fight. There are times when I want to use my most perfect, intense high threat rotations (typically a tank and spank type of fight where the dps will also be putting out their max rotations) but there are also times when I need to be able to keep threat with minimal effort. For example, if I’m dragging a mob around the room and also dodging fire on the floor, I have a lot of buttons to press and I don’t have the concentration to keep a max threat rotation up at the same time.

So here is why threat decay is a bad idea in WoW:

1. It assumes that both tanks and dps/ healers are always generating threat at similar rates. All it takes is one fight where the tank has a lot of things to do but dps can stand still and nuke, and suddenly they’re being asked to stand around and do nothing because of the lower threat cap (caused because it’s harder for the tank to prevent threat decay while moving).

2. It vastly favours tanks who have better ranged tanking, easier rotations, or other class abilities which make them better able to keep up a max threat cycle whilst doing other things. Or rather, yes I was proud of being able to tank Malygos on my warrior when I know a lot of other raids were insisting on paladins for exactly this reason (need to be able to keep threat high while moving dragon around)  but there’s a limit in how far I want to feel punished for having a more complex rotation or less inbuilt threat.

3. Fighting the rest of the group isn’t really what makes tanking fun. It would be better if there was some reward for higher threat (maybe it effectively debuffs the mob in some scaling way). I bet dps would be ticked off if a mob healed so much during combat that they never really made a dent in it.

4. It’s just not necessary. Nerf paladin threat, and call it fixed.

5. Tank threat has never really been normalised in WoW. It didn’t matter which tank did the most threat per se, as long as all of them were able to stay ahead of the top dps (more or less). Burst threat and up-front threat did make a difference and probably should have been more normalised than it ever was. But if threat decay is going into the game, then threat needs to be as equalised as dps is among dps classes.

It isn’t an impossible idea in general. I’m sure other games have used variants on threat decay to keep the game interesting. But if it goes live, then dps threat needs to decay also. There needs to be times in a fight where a clever tank can realise that dps will not be on full blast and they could take advantage of that to lower the threat cap temporarily.

I also agree that threat has long lost its potency as a game mechanic. Instead of being forced to work with dps players to make sure the mob was attacking the right person, we feel as though we are working against them. If they are ever asked to hold their fire, the amount of whining or begging for a better tank has to be heard to be believed.

I wonder perhaps if tank decay is a polite way for GC to say that actually they want the dps classes to learn some patience and to not always have threat on easy mode. Not a bad goal in itself. But I don’t want to be the one who gets blamed all the time for slacking every single time it happens. I also prefer tanking to be a test of smartness and reaction and situational awareness, not just of how well you can hammer your max threat rotation while jumping through hoops. We aren’t dps monkeys, after all.

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38 thoughts on “Just say no to threat decay

  1. I don’t know… I have to disagree.

    In a raid where the rogues and hunters are pulling correctly, the tank will absolutely shoot ahead of everyone on threat. It beats the days of WAIT TILL 5 SUNDERS OMG, but it’s really easy mode now.

    On your typical taunt trade fight, I could theoretically AFK – or at least get extremely lazy with the rotation – and tricks and MD will do the threat half of my job for me. Where is the challenge in that? I’ve never, ever, ever seen a raid threat capped by the MT in the last six months or so – with the possible exception of Hodir (built in buff) or Vezax (mana tank issues). On the one occasion where people were inching up on my MT, I heard the surprise in his voice – “What? I’m threat capping the raid? Oh, I can pay more attention.”

    Seriously… How is that right? I can happily leave out half my rotation on Saurfang – and I need to – without the raid having to adjust for my lowered threat. I’d prefer if the raid actually had to adjust to the fact that my rotation changes. We might not be DPS machines, but we ARE threat machines and I’d welcome the challenge.

    Is threat decay the right solution? I don’t think so, either.

    If you look closely at GC and other dev’s comments, though, they fully admit that the problem is not with threat but with Tricks/MD and the way they work now. I think we’re more likely to see a change to those abilities instead of a threat decay.

    • Read a little more closely. You’ve really never seen this threat leap at the start of a pull?

      With a few rogues and hunters in the raid, you could tricks a dead rat and it would hold threat for the entire fight.

      I pulled Halion wrong the other night and ended up on the outside of the wall. (Who knew…. the flame walls appear to come up, but actually come up a second or two later.) The rogues were lol’ing because I was doing zero threat – zero – I was outside the damn wall – and they were all tricksing me and I held the boss until I died.

      Another case in point: Lady Deathwhisper phase 3 hard mode. I’m pretty sure the devs didn’t intend for a tank producing *absolutely zero threat* to hold her for the entire phase with the help of tricks and MDs, but that is the easiest way to do it.

      I just don’t think it’s right that two classes can basically do a major part of my job for me. And if they can do it on Lady D, you better believe they are giving a huge – huge – huge boost to threat on every other fight where you are producing threat.

      Just gonna emphasize again… I’m pretty sure, from my reading of GC’s comments, that he has always been complaining more about tricks & MD, and not about tank threat generation.

      Those class mechanics are at fault – not the lazy tank who goes off for a smoke :)

    • I think our experiences are different because for most of the hunters and rogues I raid with, getting MD or TotT is a bit like getting blood out of a stone (not all of you! if anyone is reading). ofc they’ll do it if we especially ask, but otherwise they’d prefer to use a cooldown on something more dps-ish (which is, after all, their job, so I have no issues with that!).

      Where are all these hunters who MD the tank on every cooldown? And why do they do that? Cos frankly if I can keep threat fine without it, I think it’s a waste of their time and effort.

      • If your rogues aren’t ToTing you every CD, then they are bad rogues and someone should yell at them.

        Between the damage boost to the target and the T10 energy bonus, that’s a lot of DPS.

        Though, frankly, Tricks and MD have essentially made Tank threat gen a bit of an after thought. Something that’s concerning me a little bit is the idea that, come Cata, we’re going to have an entire ‘generation’ of tanks that just don’t know how to tank. W

      • With respect to your question of who MDs on cooldown, it comes down to the level you’re raiding at and the calibre of people you raid with. I was fortunate enough to be the pug in an Algalon run and they had 3 rogues running a TotT rotation on the fury warrior (Shadowmourne of course) and 3 hunters maintaining MD on the tank. The hunters’ job was to counter the threat the fury warrior was building up from receiving the rogues’ TotT and his own increased threat from the dps increase. At the end of the fight the fury warrior averaged a cool 16k.

        If you’re trying to squeeze every ounce of dps out, you better believe the tank will need MD.

  2. Presumably any threat decay would be counter-balanced by higher base threat for tanks who are doing their jobs.

    In other words you would hold aggro better if this got introduced.

    I really don’t think they ever want to go back to the “wait for 3 sunders” paradigm. With today’s players it would be a complete mess, the NGE of WoW.

  3. Bear in mind that your rotation is going to be a lot easier in Cataclysm since we won’t be heroic striking on next swing all the time.

    Agreed on the movement thing though – was tanking Halion in the Twilight realm last night and that is definitely a fight where playing a warrior is tough.

  4. as a DPSer, it’s NOT my job to keep my threat low. It’s to keep my damage high and make the game more challenging for the tanks. And when my DPS isn’t pulling enough threat, I switch to bear form and pop a taunt.

    I am a Moonkin, and I am a dick :)

    • Haha, I have often suspected this ;)

      Honestly I don’t mind being run ragged by dps and forced to focus. I only mind when they whine that I’m not ((whichever tanking class currently produces most threat, when I’m doing my best))

  5. In my ideal MMO, DPS would have to worry about threat at least as much as tanks. Probably too late for WoW though.

    • I agree with you. And I actually like misdirect and TotC as abilities. I’ve been very glad of having a misdirect to help on a tricky pull on many occasions. I wonder if they just need to be tweaked somehow to encourage the coooperative behaviour.

  6. I can’t really follow you. No DPS player rivals the threat of my DK (when tanking, my threat sucks terrible while off-tanking). It’s hilarious how much threat I produce with a terrible boring rotation. And if you slak a bit you just spam Icy Touch to get back up.

    Sure, it’s an alt and I play only 10 man with my guild and we haven’t even killed the LK so what do I know. But I think there are a lot of us.

    And from a DPS point of view. For me, Festergut is one of the best fights in the whole expansion – if you kill him 1 second before enrage. Because then you did matter. Your flawless rotation did matter. The single talent point you switched to increase your dps by 1% did matter. You’re speed potion did matterand was not just the normal, irrelevant part of the rotation to speed the kill up by half a second. When you kill him 30s before enrage he is terrible broing. When you wipe on him he’s boring, too.

      • The problem is not “DK threat”. The problem is different threat scaling with gear and encounter between different classes. There is no static solution to that, threat decay might exactly do that.

  7. I really love your option 3. I hate that part as a tank, that I am in a sense fighting my guild-mates, instead of rewarding them.
    But I think you are wrong on the /bold/’ed part of your text. The decay means that we cannot stop adding threat, not that dps has to wait for threat to be build up.
    My hopes for what GC was talking about, is that threat will be easy to build up and keep, but you need to keep an eye on it at all times.
    Sort of what Gravity is saying.

    @Kring: Sounds more like you have a lot of MD’s on you tbh. My dk can keep up with the MT when im ot’ing (but IT being extremely op, doesn’t hurt with threat for death knights these days)

    • I think so, yes. But the effect is that I can completely slack for the second half of the fight. Which is bad. It’s like reverting to SB spam on my warlock. DPS can’t do that, why should tanks like to do that?

      Whaetever they do, making threat matter for the whole fight is a good idea.

      > My dk can keep up with the MT when im ot’ing

      That’s what I mean. Maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to slack on all fights and practice my rotation. I have no problem staying above our warlock in thread in my 10 man while tanking. But when off-tanking blood queen (no rune strike) she always surpasses me.

  8. Threat decay will decrease current threat thats has been built on a NPC by a fixed(defined by level i guess) value every X period of time. That means it will not have any impact on keeping aggro as everyone, not only tanks, will lose threat.

    I have been in a BWL run where our MT DC’ed on Nefarian, relogged and continued tanking phase 2. He was there in offline frozen mode for 2 minutes, generating 0 threat and 30 dpsers nuking, but he never lost aggro, we did not wipe. That’s making me think that the introduction of threat decay would make some things retain their normal flow, e.g. your MT DC’s on boss, you all die :P

  9. I hope threat decays for DPS memebers too. :) In which case, the decay itself is not a problem.
    GC clearly states that decay is to prevent situations when tank is so very far ahead (say 2x or 3x threat of the next person) that s/he can go bioafk. These situations are not common, but they happen. It can be very undergeared/unskilled DPS, or specific encounter conditions (like mother in Black temple where tanks wore standard tanking gear, stood in one place and hit buttons while everyone else wore Shadow Resist gear (very bad for DPS) and frequently ran to break mother’s special ability).
    When you’re struggling for threat, decay is not a factor. Say you have 300k threat and Bad Recount-Preaching DPSer has 299k. Then if threat decays by as much as 10%, you have 270k and BRPDPS 269.1k. You’ve been 1000 threat apart and become 900 threat apart. Not a notisable decrease.

  10. Threat was a faceroll for the entire expansion, regardless of class. As a warrior (not a paladin), I remember plenty of times where I’d get a 10 second lead then tab out to fix something. Shit, on Marrowgar I’d always forget to turn my settings down, so I’d get a solid lead then stand in the fire while I hit escape and turned them down. It’s a sick F-ing joke, that’s why it needs something to be done.

  11. “4. It’s just not necessary. Nerf paladin threat, and call it fixed.”

    Actually, after a few rounds of paladin nerfing (and warrior and DK buffing), warriors now have the best single target threat, probably followed by DKs.

  12. I think the bigger problem is not so much fights where DPS and the tank are going full-bore on the same target, but fights with adds.

    Say there’s a boss with 2 adds. The adds need to be killed before the boss. By the time the DPS gets done with the adds, the boss tank will be absolutely untouchable.

    Without threat decay, in any fight where the DPS is doing something other than attacking the main boss for a significant portion of the fight, the tank will build an insurmountable threat lead. If this is not true, then the tank will have serious problems on a fight when the DPS attacks the boss full-time.

    • Yup, good example.

      Although I’m not sure you can ever really win with a fight like that (eg. Kologarn et al). Either you have threat decay and the tank gets to slack whenever the dps run off to do something else (ie. just keep enough threat to be above the healers) or else you don’t and the tank builds up a lead and can slack when they get back.

      I actually think the best answer is make tank dps more important so no one would ever be motivated to slack but I guess that raises other issues. It’s the main reason I don’t. I realise my dps is only a small contribution but it’s still better than nothing.

      My concern really is that tanking has been rather dull in ICC (in my experience) and I’m looking for clues that it will be more interesting in the next expansion. And not really finding any yet.

  13. Paladin boss (single-target) threat is piss poor, especially on bosses like Saurfang where you have to skip some aoe to not accidentally hit a beast. I hate it when Warriors blame everything on Paladins, that they have easy rotation and so on, but well Revenge – Shield Slam – Devastate is really a hard rotation right? On AoE they’re already nerfing Consecration in Cataclysm for the reason “Paladin AoE threat was too good”.

    Btw, dps lost the knowledge how to control their threat. After many dps gibs be it heroic Deathwhisper or even normal Rotface in PUGs (because Warlocks stand in melee and can’t keep their 125% aggro and not pull) or Fire Mages pulling the Lich King after transition phase (hai I have 41yd range I cba to nuke adds if I can nuke the boss), I just lost all hope, and of course they always blame the tank. Oh, they also tend to pull Keleseth while they know I spend my time chasing orbs instead of “producing threat”.

    And yes, dps got lazy because of tricks / misdirect, if I pull without it (because fight mechanics ask misdirects to be used for something else, or no hunter / rogue accidentally), threat is very volatile in first seconds when I’m still trying to reposition the boss, but people open with full nuke nevertheless. It’s very frustrating but the “wait for 5 sunders” lesson will never come back, it’s will be always and forever “noob tank u fail”.

  14. It’s not actually a rotation is the thing. But yes, it does look as though they’re looking to make paladins and warriors play more similar in Cata and I fear you are right that in future, dps will always just blame the tank if they ever get threat capped for any reason ever ;/

  15. Firstly, what’s with the paladin hate? Death Knights out threat everything, Warriors out threat Paladins and Druids… Paladin threat has already been nerfed 3 times (ok twice, once was a bug).

    Secondly threat is only a non-issue typically with low DPS time / bad rotations (Fury warriors can ride anything it seems) and because of the scaling on tanks. It should be based around 50% DPS damage and a 2x threat modifier (giving us a 10% lead on melee, 30% on ranged) to pull to account for random differences. Threat decay is sensible (mobs shouldn’t stay annoyed from 10 minutes ago) but seems badly implemented, why can a tank simply keep threat anyway, surely it should be tighter like Bloodboil or Loot Reaver.

    • I’m teasing. Still sore about how things were earlier in the expansion but apparently there’s a 12 step program for that (hopefully some of the guys who are still bitching about TBC will try it out first.)

  16. I MD every cooldown, even in a heroic. It gives me something to do which helps another player. And it’s fun to MD a wayward mob back to it’s momma.

    I like threat decay, and the potential to need CC in Cata. All DPS need some other responsibilities.

    • I can see how it would be really helpful if there was a threat wipe, dodgy add pull, or the tank was struggling.

      I just feel that every change they make is to make dps more interesting, not to help tanks or healers have more fun. I dunno why, but I’m really inclining more and more to play dps next round.

      • It won’t realistically give DPS another thing to do except in fights where tanks cannot be on target 100% of the time. The threat ceiling even in TBC was rarely an issue, when it became one we just started gearing for threat rather than survival down to the survival floor. Things were slightly different in Sunwell (thinking Brutallus) but even then the tanks that got taken were the highest threat tanks typically because you couldn’t afford to not do so.

        If Blizzard wants to make threat important, make threat important, bloodboil, loot reaver etc… go go

  17. I agree that WotLK made us DPS very lazy. Remember your first run into heroic magister’s terrace back in the day? Without CC it was impossible, and straight out nuking anything was a wipe.

    Now, you can even go and nuke your way through ICC10 (up to a certain point at least) and need not to worry about tanks loosing threat.

  18. I love this thread… and all threads that pertain to tanking as it is freaking awesome. I started playing just pre TBC and was taught by an amazing dwarf paladin how to pally tank. being a die hard pally tank, I’m used to 2 things. 1, everyone whines and complains that pally tanks have it so easy, and 2, there are a TON of really poor tanks out there. The most striking thing is how easy they have had to make tanking, just to keep enough of the player base doing it. After 4 years of pally tanking, I recently switched to warrior, and I will never go back. Paladin rotation is boring now, and threat is an issue far worse than other tanks in terms of gear differences. On my fresh 80 warrior, I was holding threat over 5k geared dps (barely) in heroics. Although I dropped like a rock in a lake sometimes, I think that threat is currently balanced well enough to make the game enjoyable. Nerf Paladins? not so much… fix their rotation though, make em work for what they have, hell maybe I would switch back if they weren’t so damn boring…

    Also, I agree with the comment, any aggro decay MUST be across the board, heals, deeps, tank… We really don’t need tanks who like tanking quiting because it becomes a pain in the ass to fight with the dps all the time. Been there, wont go back…

    • “Nerf Paladins? not so much… fix their rotation though, make em work for what they have,”

      That’s pretty much what I meant. I think most players would interpret that as a nerf, even if they agree it would make the class more fun and more balanced with the others.

  19. I don’t think decay is the point. It sounds like you said, the problem is tank threat generation is so high that DPS never beat it and are rarely in danger.

    DPS should always blow the tank in terms of potential threat generation out of the water, so they simply can’t spam special attacks. Hate management is as much a DPS job as a tank, and its a lot better that DPS are forced to know how to intelligently use their moves to minimize taking hate.

    Decay wont matter much because it has to be applied to all equally. If the paladin decays faster, in prolonged fights DPS will become untankable. If its equal, it still wont matter because the paladin still generates more hate than the DPS over time.

  20. Having threat decay might be interesting but, honestly I don’t think DPS these days will get a clue. It’ll always be the tanks fault.

    I’ve played every class since pre BC, and I have to tell you, especially now, DPS is bay far the easiest classes to play. You don’t need to worry about anything but doing dps. Good DPS threat manage but even if they are good DPS the fact of the matter is that everyone has gotten too lazy.

    I’ve always loved tanking and there is a noticable difference between playing a tanking class and a DPS class. When I tank I’m always paying attention and it’s high stress (not bad stress just can be exhausting after 8 hours of play). However when I play DPS it’s like a vacation from playing the game with the same rewards.

    Most times I admittedly am bored when i play DPS because there really isn’t anything to do. Practically DPS as is in the game is a needed roll, however every “DPS class” is throwaway and replaceable.

  21. I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at here.

    “But if it goes live, then dps threat needs to decay also.”

    Well, obviously DPS threat is going to decay too. I don’t even see how you think this system is supposed to work if it only applied to the tanks. A DPS reaches a tank’s decaying threat cap and has to stand around and do nothing for the rest of the fight? The end of a boss fight devolves into the tanks being the only ones still doing any damage until the healers can’t keep them alive any more without passing them on threat? And then you start kiting the boss around until everyone’s dead?

    They never said ONLY tank threat would decay. They said THREAT. Meaning ALL threat. Which means DPS and healing threat as well. I really don’t understand how threat decay is going to make any difference at all over the current system except in those cases where a tank could disconnect halfway through the fight and not lose aggro in the five minutes it takes him to get his internet connection back. And I’d call that an improvement. If your tank isn’t even online, he shouldn’t be able to hold aggro.

    • My point is that right now both tank and dps threat decay at the same rate (ie. not at all) and blues say that tanks are getting so far ahead on threat that they can slack off and do nothing (partly due to misdirects and tott).

      To put that right, either tank threat would need to decay faster than dps threat or other classes shouldn’t be able to dump massive extra threat on the tank so often.

      • They’ve already said that they’re going to do something to misdirect/tott to make them not viable for that any more, probably just making the threat temporary.

        And the threat decay is percentage-based (1% per 5 seconds, I believe). So since the tanks have more threat than the DPS, they’re going to lose more from threat decay.

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