Thanks for taking care of my multi-post, Cider!
Question 2 -- Value When Not Tanking
The BC answer to this is "not bloody much". Being the debuff person so that DPS warriors don't need to do it isn't a great answer here. Not a great answer at all.Question 3 -- Memorable/Enjoyable
DPS as protection spec can be fun, but the DPS produced is not the world's greatest. It gets notably less lame in situations where there's a lot of raid damage flying around to keep the fires burning. But still, it doesn't really keep up. As fights get tighter and tighter on requirements (as they do with progression), it becomes more and more painful to have more tanks than you absolutely need. If prot warriors could routinely do 90% of the DPS of a DPS warrior in all sorts of conditions, that might be nice, but... that's still enough less DPS (especially counting the issue of getting DPS drops) that it would make more sense to swap. And even if it doesn't lead to a swap, switching to DPS isn't really... tanky.
TK and SSC had a number of places where having 4-5 tanks (one feral) was a workable option, and not much in the way of DPS races. In MH and BT, having more than three isn't really workable. Because of the mechanics of some fights, having less than three isn't an option either—but those three-tanks-needed fights seem kind of like a band-aid: they feel like they're there just to keep tanks in work. Some trash requires a bit more, some requires a bit less. All in all, this variability in tanking requirements is kind of a downer. I mean, what would a raid ever lose by having only a single tank in the raid for Archimonde or Gorefiend?
I think the right answer is to steal from JoanaDark's comment about (more or less) "when you are tanking, you are alone", and look at ways to change that. We all know that some multi-tank fights are among the most fun tanking fights in the game... but it would be nice to have that multi-tankness be part of the tanks at times rather than part of the bosses.
Another thing to note (and this is what I was talking about when I said I'd mention "active" abilities again in the future in my first post) is that the activity from the backup tanks should be actual activity. On Mother Shahraz, we use a druid MT, with me and a pally in avoidance gear soaking the hits. I typically keep commanding shout, thunderclap, demo shout, and sunder armor up while I'm standing around... but I could practically just plant myself on the tank spot and then go AFK until the fight is over.
That is clearly the wrong kind of multiple tank participation.
On the opposite side, Void Reaver style fights ought to be pretty rare as well. In this case, everybody is fighting to build threat as fast as possible. Every tank in the fight is pouring on the abilities, trying to be efficient, trying to gain extra power to use more abilities, etc. It's purely a race for the tanks, and everybody is running hard.
That's not the wrong kind of multiple tank participation, but it's also not what every fight should be.
The happy medium is one similar to what we have now, with a mix of fights requiring different tanking components (single target, forced aggro swaps, complications requiring willful aggro swaps, groups of bosses, bosses with swarms of adds, untankable, exotic tanking, etc.) The key difference, though, should be that tanks should have the ability to reinforce each other or the raid (if they're free) in all of these scenarios.
And that reinforcement should fit under the thematic umbrella of tanking: Soaking damage, holding aggro, dealing with nasty boss stuff.
Demoralizing Shout and Thunderclap show one method of helping that extra tanks can do—but it's not very satisfying. For one thing, it's a pretty passive thing to do. You can do it while DPSing. In fact, DPS warriors are often called upon to use these abilities so the tank can concentrate on building threat and surviving. Intervene for warriors is a more active ability that's interesting, but it's more useful as an emergency measure than a general utility. It also can't be used effectively if the "non-tanking tank" is set up to DPS: you need a shield to use it, you need to be in defensive stance, and you need good gear to take a normal hit from the boss. The primary place I've seen this used is on Gruul to split damage input to the MT during silences, since silences come less often than the cooldown of Intervene, and since you can often afford to have one extra tank here who's not really contributing damage.
So... what are the ingredients for an "off-tank" role that would be truly satisfying? It should be something that involves active work, but not at the same fever pitch as the MT. It should be something that tanks bring to the fight and other roles don't—not something that can be applied by non-tanking members of the same classes. Its effectiveness should be improved by many of the same attributes that improve actual tanking.
Finally, it should optimally be something that continues to improve with more tanks around, making tanking a "team sport". The optimal scenario would involve situations where having only one tank was a drawback, having two tanks was reasonable and workable (and expected), having three tanks would continue to improve the situation (although perhaps not as much as the second tank did), and having more than three tanks would exhibit clear diminishing returns. This would have the potential to make the choice of "do we put another tank in this slot or another healer or another DPS" interesting at all levels of play.
I think my best bets fall into a handful of categories:
First, methods for sharing damage taken with the MT. This decreases the burst damage pressure on the MT while maintaining a similar healing load for the entire raid. The 10k damage is done and has to be healed, but if it's done as 6k/4k, the healers gain a lot more reaction time.
Second, methods for reducing damage taken by the MT without sharing it. This would decrease the total healing load on the raid, so it should probably reduce the damage taken by the tank less than a damage split would. Perhaps the base 10k hit is reduced to 8k in this case: it requires more burst healing on the MT, but more mana is conserved over the course of the fight.
Third and fourth, either or both of the above two mechanisms could apply to raid damage as an "umbrella" instead of to the MT. This would allow tanks to soak damage directly for the raid, reducing incoming environmental damage or damage from swarms of mobs. (That last is sort of like demo shout, only in this case it feels more "active".)
All of the above four items ought to represent tactics that are unworkable if the person using the ability isn't in tanking gear. Intervene's real limit is "can you take the hit you just asked for?". The same thing should apply here. If the person splitting damage with the MT applies their own armor total to incoming melee damage, then they need to be geared up as a tank to provide that defense. Likewise, magic damage could be mitigated after the split by resistances, etc. The role of the "defender"'s HP pool should be clear. For something that doesn't actually involve the "defender" taking damage, the damage prevented from harming the MT could be based on the defender's stats. (I'm more in favor of the damage sharing, to be honest, since it feels more like tanking when you take actual damage. Still, variety means different classes can get different abilities.)
A fifth ability that an extra tank could provide is something that augments the aggro generation of the MT. This is currently the province of hunters with Misdirect. It's unclear to me how this ought to work. If it were a "you get 10% of the threat I generate" kind of aura, a DPSing member of a tank class would clearly provide better support than a tanking member. One possibility would be to tie it to the "defender" abilities described above: you can only give aggro to the MT if you're willing to take part of his damage load.
A sixth ability (which, surprise, we've already seen!) would be a mechanism that allow reducing the damage of other raid members. This is something some tanks seem to be getting already. To make this active, though, it would be better to have it be something based on the "protected" individual losing aggro equal to a portion of the aggro the tank generates. Having it be a flat percentage of the defendee's aggro produciton means you can provide that utility to the raid while AFK, which is undesirable.
Finally, team emergency buttons. Intervene is a good example of this, actually. It can be used to try to defend the MT against a big hit when they're low on health, or it can be saved and used against burst damage abilities with predictable timing. Similar (but different) abilities could do all of the sorts of things described above, only "more so" and for a shorter time. Intervene is basically damage splitting that's complete (0/100) and which has a longish cooldown and only lasts for one melee strike. Another potential (different kind, though) of emergency button might be a quick "burst down threat" or "burst up threat" on a longish cooldown. Or a targeted Cloak of Shadows, or... etc. Again, these ought to be things that require tanking gear to do well.
Sooooo, anyway. That was long-winded. The core idea is: Tanks should be able to contribute in tanky ways when not tanking. This means that their tank gear should contribute towards their performance, and that the utility they provide should be related to the core tanking abilities: soaking damage, managing aggro, and mitigating disasters. While other classes (or tanking classes geared and/or talented for other roles) might have some of these abilities as well, tanks ought to be the best at providing this service. These abilities should be active—you need to feel like you're actually working to do the best job you can—you might be able to slack off more than the MT, but not much more, and you certainly can't go AFK for any length of time. Adding more tanks should provide more of this sort of utlity... to a point. Assuming that there is a "goal number of tanks in the raid", having one less tank than the goal (in any fight) should be workable but uncomfortable. Having one more tank than the goal should provide an interesting trade-off of survival for DPS. Having more than one extra tank should feel inefficient. Having more than one missing tank should feel deadly.
Hmm. My first time dealing with the "aggro reducing knockback" was on Broodlord Lashlayer. The hectic pace of "fight fight fight for agggggro!" was tremendous fun. This was near the time I started raiding, so I was excited to be tanking anything at all. That may color things.
The drake fights were also all pretty enjoyable. I recall taunting Wing Buffets and sailing across the room. Tanking in BWL definitely felt like a team effort, most of the time.
Getting in line for Vael to see how many tanks would die tonight was always a rush, although I joined my first WoW raiding guild just after
they had finished with him.
I liked Battleguard Sartura a whole hell of a lot—I'd heard so many times that "stuns aren't useful in raiding" that I laughed in delight when I realized how useful they were on Sartura. In general, I think this was satisfying because it was an "exotic tanking" fight in which the enemies were still tanked by tanks
. Our strategy was to burn down one add, then put three tanks on Sartura and two on each of the remaining adds. The add tank teams would use taunts and stuns to maintain control, while the Sartura team used a taunt rotation shouted on vent (our MT went hoarse more than once on that fight.) Usually one of our adds would be down just in time for a Sartura tank to die and need replacement. Crazy and different and fun.
Princess Huhuran was a tremendous pain in the ass because of the resist gear requirements, but was otherwise pretty interesting. Kurinaxx and Fankriss gave a sort of preview of what was going to happen here, what with the stacking debuffs and need to swap tanks around. But the reality of the fight was a different thing entirely. Having to swap between more than two tanks, while maintaining the highest possible threat output to burn Huhuran down quickly... It was a great payoff for the introduction of a new sort of mechanic to the game.
Since I never made it to the really really fun fights in Naxxramas pre-BC, I think my favorite boss was the Twin Emperors. There was nothing really all that technically challenging here, but it was the first fight where I was one of the MTs for every kill. I was the tank who would tank Vekni'lash at the start of the fight, and I was the tank who could routinely land demoralizing shouts without aggroing any stupid yellow bugs. So I enjoyed that a lot.
As for memorable moments... There are an awful lot of "oh my god, we finally got that boss down"s that everybody gets ecstatic about. But I think the memory I'll never forget is when I tanked Prince Malchezzar through phase 3 with... a fishing pole. ^_^;;; Whoops.
I guess I remember the painful more than the pleasant.